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GQS 201: Introduction to Gender, Queer, and Feminist Studies: Primary Sources

Evaluating Primary Sources

Primary sources are the raw materials of research - original, uninterpreted information or evidence of the topic you are investigating. A primary source on its own is likely only a snippet or snapshot of the full picture; thus it is often difficult to interpret without additional context. The following group activity will give you an opportunity to (1) practice analyzing primary source documents from the Archives of Sexuality & Gender and (2) contextualize them using tertiary source research. 

CW: These are historical documents that often reflect attitudes, perspectives, and beliefs of different times and necessarily engage with sexism, homophobia, and adjacent themes. Some sources may include nudity, strong (uncomfortable, offensive, or oppressive) language, outdated terminology, or address difficult issues.


Explore the documents in your group's set and respond to the following questions, keeping in mind the goals and themes of this course.

  1. Who created these documents? What can you surmise about the author's/group's identity, political aims, or societal positioning? What communities, activist groups, or organizations are they associated with? What issues do the author(s) of these texts care about and what are their goals?
  2. What evidence do these documents give you about the social or political climate in the United States at the time they were written? What evidence is absent? Note any questions you have and identify unfamiliar concepts, people, events, or terms for further research.
  3. How do these documents help us understand different activists' tactics and how they influenced legal and social progress for their communities?
  4. After you have spent some time independently analyzing your primary documents, use any 2 of the tertiary sources on the the tab for "Building Context" to seek out additional background information. How do the subject encyclopedia articles inform or alter your interpretation of your group's primary sources?

Group 1

Group 2

Group 3

Group 4

Group 5

Group 6

Finding Primary Sources

The resources and tools below provide access to additional primary sources at Collins Library and beyond. You can find more primary sources, as well as links to websites and digital collections on the Gender & Queer Studies Subject Guide.

Archives of Sexuality & Gender

Archives of Sexuality and Gender logo

LGBTQ History and Culture Since 1940, Part I
LGBTQ History and Culture Since 1940, Part II
Sex and Sexuality, Sixteenth to Twentieth Century

LGBT Thought & Culture

LGBT Thought and Culture database logo

Primary Sources: Subject Collections

Need Help?

This subject guide highlights only a small portion of the many resources available to you. If you're not finding what you need, don't hesitate to contact Katy!

Katy Curtis, Humanities Librarian
Schedule an appointment
tel: (253) 879-3672
office: Collins Library 140

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