Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 4-2018


History, Research, Primary Source, Information Literacy, Imposter Syndrome


Written by a librarian and a history professor, this article describes a primary source literacy project for students. In addition, this essay reports the project’s effectiveness in teaching undergraduates to analyze information and develop primary source literacy. The methodology employed included a research project with 24 undergraduates, along with a pre- and post-survey. The research project and student survey incorporated principles from the Guidelines for Primary Source Literacy, published in 2017 by the ACRL’s Rare Books & Manuscripts Section and the Society of American Archivists. The article offers research and practical implications for librarians and instructors interested in strategies to teach primary source literacy. As defined by the Guidelines, “primary sources are materials in a variety of formats, created at the time under study… [They] can be printed materials, manuscript/archival materials, audio/visual materials, artifacts, or born-digital materials” (ACRL/RBMS-SAA, 2017). In keeping with this definition, this article includes a review of the literature on archival intelligence/primary source literacy, and also of artifactual literacy. This piece describes the 2017 Guidelines for Primary Source Literacy and discusses their application. Lastly, this essay includes implications on how to create an inclusive learning experience for students with mechanisms such as a scaffolded assignment, hands-on instruction, and imposter syndrome awareness. Given that this is one of the first articles to document how practitioners are incorporating the 2017 Guidelines, this is sure to be an original and valuable paper.


This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Hauck, J. and Robinson, M. (2018) "Of primary importance: applying the new literacy guidelines", Reference Services Review, Vol. 46 Issue: 2, pp.217-241, which has been published in final form at