Primary Source Research

You are going to write a brief biography of Louis Riel. It is going to be based on primary sources such as those found in this list.

Your biography should be about 250-500 words, but probably closer to 500 than to 250.

You need to use mainly primary sources. Since some details of Riel's life will not be covered by primary sources (after all, what newspaper would've written about Riel's birth?) you will need to use some secondary sources as well. Wikipedia, the Canadian Encyclopedia, and the Dictionary of Canadian Biography are all good places to start.

  1. Start out by reading about Riel's life.
  2. Once you know the broad outlines of his life, search in the newspapers for some of the important things that happened to him or that he did. You can try using the search engine (it doesn't work well) or simply look through newspapers from the appropriate time period.
  3. Ask yourself questions:
    • What is the point of view of the person writing the article? Is he sympathetic to Riel? Does he reflect the rest of society?
    • What information does the article tell you about Riel? Was he popular? Was he appreciated? Was he mentally stable?
  4. Piece the bits of information from the primary sources together with information gleaned from the other secondary sources.
  5. Use as many direct quotes from the journals as reasonably possible.
    • Make sure you are properly citing everything. That means that you need good footnotes.

When you are done you should have a short essay that includes details of Riel's life that you couldn't reasonably find in books.


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