Historical methods involve strategies and techniques through which historians use primary and secondary sources to research and analyze then write history regarding accounts which occurred in the past. History is produced through a method of inquiry and interrogating the remnants from the past to attain a conclusion of the past through an argument. 

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Historical Sources

Primary sources are the firsthand raw data collected by a historian at the time of research. The sources are the earliest pieces of evidence of events which are analyzed later to get information and data. They form key aspects that historians use to create an argument. They include formerly handwritten documents, letters, maps, and scrips. The human record by Andrea et al argues that “In the global analysis of history, the human data is the greatest piece of primary source.”

On the other hand, primary sources generate secondary sources. They are second accounts of events and can be written or oral. Secondary sources provide conclusions, interpretations, and judgment about primary sources. At times secondary sources can be primary sources providing the time and location when the sources were written. They include journals, textbook, newspapers, and the internet.

Historians use different kinds of sources to create a conclusion of the past through the use of unique strategies. For the primary sources, the first step is to read and interpret the evidence especially when it is a kind of culture distinct from the current. Historians place the evidence in a historical context regarding who wrote it, and its purpose. Then they classify the source according to the type and conventions governing the source. The next step is to understand the keywords in the cause, their meaning, the point that the author is trying to make and the values that the source reflect. Finally, the source is evaluated regarding the typicality, circulation, assumptions, and arguments of the source during the period. Having done all these historians can develop evidence and interpretation from the source.

Secondary sources are used as a collection of facts and information, source to background materials, and as an interpretation. When analyzing the secondary source historians have to determine the author, title of the source, target audience, the idea that the author is communicating in his work, evidence provided to support the argument, facts, and opinions outlined by the author. Then, historians evaluate the source as to whether they agree with it, the questions and interpretation it raises. After evaluation, historians can rise an argument from the secondary source.


The argument is the most critical part of history. Most historians use source criticism to construct an argument from historical sources. In the History on film/film on history, Rosenstone argues that “Source criticism involves the process of weighing and evaluating the qualities of sources such as reliability, importance, and validity of the source.” In cases of different sources, the preferred source is which is created by an authority or witness. Also, source criticism goes in hand with the qualitative method which is oriented towards interpretation and meaning. For the sources whose account can only be confirmed by other sources in some parts, it is considered reliable if it is not possible to validate the whole cause.  Historians also use oral tradition to create arguments if and only if the culture is supported by a continuous series of witnesses starting with the immediate reporter to the living inherent that the evidence is gathered from. 

Importance of statistics

Use of statistics is significant in creating a broad view of the past. Firstly, it helps to summarize and describe data collected from a source. Statistical analysis is used to communicate findings from sources and support the credibility of the sources. In the Event history analysis, Blosfeld et al argue that “During historical analysis, a research problem or argument may arise at the statistical level.”  Furthermore, statistics are used to present, make conclusions and explain raw data collected from the past. Finally, statistics are used to compile some sources and identify the relationship between the sources.


Andrea, Alfred J., and James H. Overfield. The human record: Sources of global history, volume II: since 1500. Cengage Learning, 2015.

Rosenstone, Robert A. History on film/film on history. Routledge, 2014.

Blossfeld, Hans-Peter, Alfred Hamerle, and Karl Ulrich Mayer. Event history analysis: Statistical theory and application in the social sciences. Psychology Press, 2014.

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