Thanks for the info,i never really understood about Primary and secondary sources until you told me. Permission to add you name on my friends list please as I don't any friends on this site.
Salve, PM. Welcome to UNRV.
If you're looking for the basics, this brief guide by Patricia Barry may be useful:
Reliability refers to how credible or trustworthy material may be as a historical source of evidence.
In order to test for reliability, these are some of the questions an historian should ask.
Who wrote the source?
What are their ideas / beliefs?
What is the extent of their knowledge of the subject
Are they well informed or is their work over opinionated?
Are there many "I" statements in the work, or is it written in the "third person".
Are they for or against the issue under discussion?
Is the source a Primary Source?
Is the author an eyewitness?
Eyewitnesses may lack a global view, they may not be able to see/hear all that happened
However, they will be able to present a focussed point of view
Was the source written for a specific reason, eg. a private diary may present the same material quite differently from a witness statement given to a government inquiry.
As an immediate report, it could contain errors
An eyewitness report can be very valuable for feelings and details which may not "make it" in later versions.
Is the Source a Secondary source?
It could have the benefit of hindsight. That means the researcher knows the outcome.
It is based on primary sources. Researcher may have been careful to select from sources which "corroborate", ie. bear each other out
Researcher should have been able to check the facts to ensure there are no errors in fact.
Why was the source written?
This may well have effect on the treatment of the subject by its author.
Was it written for publication - ie. the author was paid to write it?
Was it written for a newspaper or a professional /educational journal? This will affect the way and the depth in which the subject is presented
Was it written for official purposes, as part of a government inquiry, or for a Council, etc.
Was it written for private use? Again, a letter and a diary may present the same information quite differently.
Who was the intended audience?
Was it written for the general public with a limited knowledge of the subject, eg. a newspaper
Was it written for people who knew a little about the subject - eg. a text book
or people who were experts in the subject area?
Was it written by a member of the group for the same group?
How was the language selected?
The choice of words may place bias on the material.
Is it emotive or factual?
Are there many "I" statements?
What about the selection of facts?
Does it seem to be a fair account, or is only one side presented?
What 'silences' or gaps exist in the information?
Remember, what is not said if often more important than what is said
Are there errors in fact?
This may indicate an unreliable source.
When sources do not agree