Primary Sources: HAPPY Analysis

There are five major categories of information that you need to consider when properly analyzing a primary source. This applies to all primary source analysis, but the process and the acronym typically go with AP courses.


Historical Context
  • Where and when was this source produced? Focus on how place and time affect its impact, message, and genesis.
  • Place it in the appropriate context - connect it with ideas before and after, or related events.


  • Who is the author's intended audience?
  • How does the audience affect the validity of the document and its message? E.g., how might their message have been modified or shaped to suit their audience?


  • What is the author's purpose and/or motivation for creating this source?
  • Is this intended to persuade or inform? Is this some sort of propaganda?
  • How does this affect reliability and validity?


Point of View
  • What do you know about the author's background?
  • How does the author's role in society and hierarchy affect their perspective?
  • How does this affect the reliability and validity of the source?


Why? (Significance)
  • What is the main idea the source is trying to convey?
  • Why is this source important to history?
  • Why does this source relate to your thesis and/or the prompt? (Remember to explain this in your writing.)