Skip to Main Content

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.


For the second part of this tutorial, you will examine the entire page from which your article was taken. Page layout can provide clues as to the publication's intended audience..

Newspaper pages tend to be laid out in multiple columns--sometimes as many as nine or ten. Magazine pages also tend to be laid out in multiple

Example of a Newspaper Page

Example of a Newspaper Page

Image credit: New York Clipper, Dec. 4, 1918, p. 4.

Example of a Magazine Page

Example of a Magazine Page

Image credit: Saturday Review, Nov. 23, 1918.

Exercise for Step 2

Group A (Great Migration)

Group B (Jack the Ripper)

Questions to Answer About Your Page

  1. Does the page include a running-title? If so, then transcribe all available information in the running title: newspaper title? date? page number?
  2. Does the article appear in a special section? (E.g. national news, local news, sports, opinion, entertainment.)
  3. Where on the page does the article appear?
  4. How many other articles are on this page?
  5. How does it compare to other articles on the page? Is it longer or shorter? Is its headline typographically larger or smaller? Is the article prominently positioned on the page, or just one in a series of articles?
  6. Is the article’s content similar to other articles on the page, or markedly different?
  7. Are there any advertisements on the page? What kind of advertisements?