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University of Southern Maine
Libraries & Learning

Guide to Special Collections: Engaging with Primary Sources

Learn about accessing and using Special Collections resources for your courses or research projects.

OCIQ Method of Primary Source Analysis - Observe, Contextualize, Infer, Question

OCIQ stands for Observe, Contextualize, Infer, Question, a simple method for engaging with primary sources to generate research questions. This video models the OCIQ method for analyzing primary sources using a photograph from the Harriet Sweetser Letters in Special Collections at University of Southern Maine. 

View the photograph here:

The OCIQ method is based on the work of Jen Hoyer and Derek Christian Quezada Meneses. 

Hoyer, Jennifer. "Teaching with Primary Sources: Observations and Inferences." Brooklynology (blog). 17 January, 2018.

Quezada Meneses, Derek Christian. "Teaching with Primary Sources for Beginners." Lecture, TPS Fest, August 2, 2022.

OCIQ Basics

An Observation is a fact.

Context informs an Observation to create an Inference.

An Inference is a guess or opinion.

An Inference leads to a Question.

What is a Primary Source?

A primary source can be an article, document, diary, manuscript, object or information written or created at the time an event actually took place. Primary sources serve as an original source of information.

Learn more from the Library of Congress.

Special Collections Librarian & Food Studies Liaison

Profile Photo
Jill Piekut Roy
Subjects: Food Studies