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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Newspapers and Magazines as Primary Sources

A tutorial on using newspapers and magazines as primary sources for historical research. Emphasis is on analysis and interpretation of these sources, not on finding them.

Exercise for Step 2

For the third part of this tutorial, you will examine the issue from which your article was taken. First, open the issue assigned to you.

Group 1 (Great Migration)

Group 2 (Jack the Ripper)

Questions to Answer About Your Newspaper/Magazine Issue

  1. f you haven't yet been able to identify the publication title, and date, then do so now. If you already transcribed this information from the running title, then check your information against the information on the nameplate or the masthead. Do the nameplate, masthead, and running title all give the same title?
  2. Does the newspaper have an edition statement (e.g. "Final Edition", "Metro Edition", "Morning Edition")? If so, then transcribe the edition statement.
  3. What is the name of the publisher?
  4. Where is newspaper or magazine published?
  5. Does the publication have a motto, or logo? If so, then transcribe the motto, or describe the logo. What, if anything, can you infer from the motto or logo about the publication's point-of-view or mission?
  6. Does the masthead or nameplate carry a union logotype?
  7. Does the publication maintain a clear separation of the news and editorial pages, or are news and opinion mixed throughout?
  8. What is the price of a single issue? What is the price of an annual subscription? Is this expensive or cheap for a periodical of this kind?
  9. How frequently is the newspaper or magazine published? (E.g. daily, weekly, monthly, bimonthly.) If the publication doesn’t state this information anywhere, then how might you find out? (Hint: magazines and newspapers are usually numbered as well as dated.)
  10. How many pages is the issue? Is the copy before you complete (all pages present?).
  11. Compared to other newspapers or magazines, do you think this is a large publication or a small one?
  12. Can you tell if this publication was distributed nationally or locally?
  13. Does anything about the publication surprise you?
  14. Consider again the article’s purpose: to entertain, to enlighten, to inform decision-making, to persuade, to please, to mislead or deceive, to comply with the law, to record for posterity? Has your assessment changed since you first examined the article?