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Rouet, Jean-François, M. Anne Britt, Robert A. Mason, and Charles A. Perfetti. “Using Multiple Sources of Evidence to Reason About History.” Journal of Educational Psychology 88(3) (1996): 478-93.


This article investigated whether students’ ability to reason with and about documentary evidence is influenced by the composition of the document set they study. Two groups of college students read sets of history documents containing a variety of document types (e.g. historian essays, participant accounts). One group was also given primary documents, and the other group received additional historian essays that cited the primary documents. The students’ task was to read the documents, rate their usefulness and trustworthiness, and write a short opinion essay on the controversy described in the documents. Results revealed that the presence of primary documents influenced how students rated the documents and on which criteria they based this interpretation. These results suggest that exposing students to a variety of document types, especially primary documents, within a reasoning task changes how students represent and reason about documents and historical problems.