Evaluating Primary Sources

Evaluating Primary Sources

Question Your Sources

War Ad


Gather basic information like:

  • What is it?
  • Who created it?
  • When was it created?
  • How was it created?
  • What evidence does this contribute to my research?

Extract the meaning (consult secondary sources as needed)

  • Why was it created?
  • Who was the intended audience?
  • What questions does this source raise?
  • What other sources like this exist?
  • What have others said about this source?
  • How does evidence from this source alter or fit into existing interpretations of the past?2


Historical Context of WWII Advertisement

To the right is an advertisement to buy war bonds sponsored by the Railway Express Agency. To put this ad in some context, during World War II the U.S. government worked with companies and advertisers through agencies like the Office of War Information and the War Advertising Council to promote its messages. This is an example of one of those ads.




  1. Railway Express Agency. “Do You Mean me Uncle Sam?” 1943. Ad*Access: John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising, and Marketing History. Duke Digital Collections. Duke University Libraries.
  2. DoHistory, a site created by Film Study Center, Harvard University and hosted by Center for History and New Media, George Mason University.