How to Submit a Teaching With Primary Sources Case Study

How to Submit a Teaching With Primary Sources (TWPS) Case Study

The Society of American Archivists (SAA) publishes an open-ended series of case studies designed to illustrate the application of the Guidelines for Primary Source Literacy. These guidelines were developed by a joint task force charged by SAA and the Association of College and Research Libraries’ (ACRL) Rare Books and Manuscripts Section (RBMS). The Reference, Access, and Outreach Section (RAO) of SAA is the institutional home for this case study series. Bill Landis, who served as SAA’s co-chair of the joint task force and is a member of RAO, will serve as the series editor for the case studies for an initial two-year period, through August 2019. The RAO steering committee will be responsible for appointing future editors.

Case studies are peer reviewed, using a single-blind process, by volunteer reviewers who are members of RAO Section or affiliated with the RBMS Instruction and Outreach Committee. Once case studies are accepted following the peer and editorial review, they will be published electronically and distributed through the SAA website under a Creative Commons license, with copyright retained by the authors. Archivists, librarians, educators, and others who teach with primary sources, or in other ways assist those using primary sources, and who want to engage the primary source literacy guidelines in their work are encouraged to submit TWPS case studies. The case studies encompass primary sources in any format, including originals or facsimiles. Primary sources addressed by the case studies may be available in a wide variety of locations, both physical and virtual, including archives, special collections, libraries, historical societies, museums, licensed databases, and on the open Web.

Case studies are drawn from real-life experiences. The instruction or outreach setting can be the author’s directly, or one with which the author is familiar and feels is worthy of a case study. Case studies should explore one or more of the learning objectives identified in the Guidelines for Primary Source Literacy. A principle goal of the series is to develop a variety of case studies that collectively address all aspects of the guidelines.

Each case study should be clear about the positionality and perspective of the author(s) in relation to the case being presented. Case studies will depend on background research, which may include interviews with key players involved with the instruction or outreach example. The case study should address successes and challenges, and include information about assessment activities, or at minimum suggest possible approaches to assessment of the instructional activity(ies) featured in the case studies. As appropriate case studies may include appendices (e.g., assessment rubrics, exercises) and provide links to relevant external online resources.

Developing an Idea

If you have an idea for a case study and would like feedback prior to writing it, feel free to contact the Case Studies on Teaching with Primary Sources series editor, Jennifer Hoyer ( It is not necessary, nor does it guarantee publication, to contact the editor prior to writing a case study.

Elements of a Case Study on Teaching with Primary Sources

  • Specification of Learning Objectives Engaged in the Case Study:
    • Identify, using the list on the case study submission form, the relevant learning objectives from the Guidelines for Primary Sources Literacy engaged and addressed by the case study.
  • Introduction and Institutional Context: A successful introduction to a case study will accomplish the following, though perhaps not in the exact order in which these points are listed below:
    • Provide a succinct narrative overview of the key issues presented in the case study, including a discussion of the learning objectives from the Guidelines for Primary Source Literacy engaged by the case study, and how and why they were chosen. 
    • Discuss any consultations with faculty, other instructors, other colleagues, or the published literature that informed the selection of learning objectives and other aspects of the instruction or outreach engagement. If the case involves collaboration with faculty members or instructors other than the author(s), provide information about their pedagogical aims in the collaboration. 
    • Articulate the key problems, challenges, or goals that the case study seeks to address. 
    • Set the stage by providing institutional context such as the audience for primary source instruction, the organizational and instruction environment and/or general milieu of the organization. 
    • As appropriate, refer to previous publications and resources, or related literacy frameworks and concepts that may have contributed to the instructional approaches taken in the case study.
  • Narrative: There are many ways to approach the narrative section of a case study. The following point are intended to assist prospective authors in shaping the narrative. 
    • Present the story of the case. Describe what happened and how the events created opportunities and/or challenges for the individuals involved. 
    • Write in the third person and in the past tense, generally using participants’ full names or position titles as applicable, but in a consistent manner throughout the case study. 
    • If the case needs to be anonymized, state this explicitly in the introduction. 
    • Use direct quotations as appropriate to enhance the flow of the narrative and to develop different perspectives. 
    • Include information about problems or challenges encountered in planning and operationalizing the primary source instruction or outreach engagement, and how they were addressed.
  • Results: Remember that a variety of perspectives other than the author’s on the effectiveness and impact of the instructional activity are incredibly useful to readers of the case study. This section of the case study should address the following questions:
    • How did you measure or assess the effectiveness of the instruction or outreach activities covered in the case study? Did those measures or assessments work well? Why or why not?
    • Did you get feedback from participants about the experience? What did they gain from the activity and what do they wish had been included or done differently? 
    • If you didn’t attempt to measure or assess the effectiveness of the instruction or outreach activity(ies) presented in the case, what are your thoughts about how you might measure or assess success in the future?
  • Lessons Learned: This section should provide a brief, succinct summation of the case study and include the author’s assessment of both successful and less-than-successful aspects of the primary source instruction or outreach engagement. Be explicit about successes or failures in communicating and teaching the learning objectives in the Guidelines for Primary Source Literacy. The following questions may help to shape this section of the case study: 
    • Did your approach to teaching with primary sources change as a result?
    • Were there broader institutional impacts? 
    • How might instruction be done differently to improve teaching the primary source-related learning objectives on which the case study focuses? 

Submitting a Case Study

To submit a case study, please use the SUBMISSION FORM. Include all of the required information—such as institutional identity, authorship, and case summary—in the order that it is requested. The suggested case study length is 2,000 to 3,000 words. Authors are responsible for understanding and following the principles that govern the “fair use” of quotations and illustrations, and for obtaining written permission to publish where necessary. Accuracy in citations is also the author’s responsibility. SAA prefers the current edition of the Chicago Manual of Style with footnote or endnote formatting for citations.

Review Process

All submissions will be reviewed by three volunteer reviewers from the membership of the RAO Section or from the RBMS Instruction and Outreach Committee, and evaluated according to a RUBRIC. The reviewers will return the case study and completed rubric within three weeks of receipt to the series editor. The series editor will review the feedback and make an editorial decision, consulting with the SAA Publications Editor as necessary. The series editor will communicate a publication decision to the author(s) within five weeks of the receipt of the submission.

  • For rejected case studies: The series editor will communicate the rejection to the author(s) and provide the reasons for this editorial decision.
  • For a recommendation of revise and resubmit: The series editor will communicate the decision to the author(s) and negotiate a reasonable window of time for resubmission.
    • Resubmitted case studies will be reviewed by the series editor and at least one of the original reviewers to insure that recommended changes have been satisfactorily incorporated. The series editor ultimately makes the decision to publish or reject resubmitted case studies and communicates that decision to the author(s).
  • For case studies accepted for publication: The series editor will communicate the acceptance to the author(s).

A submission will not be considered if is being reviewed by another publishing outlet at the same time, nor if it has been published previously in a similar form.

Publication Process 

Once accepted, case studies will be submitted to the SAA Publications Editor and Director of Publishing for light copyediting. If major changes are needed, a version tracking those changes will be sent to the author for confirmation. After the author signs off on a final version, SAA will format the case study and post it to the website as a PDF. 

Copyright in the case study will remain with the author, and SAA will acknowledge this in the copyright line that appears with the case study. Authors will consent, grant, and assign to SAA the non-exclusive right to publish and/or distribute all or any part of the case study throughout the world in electronic or any other medium. In return, SAA agrees to publish the work under a Creative Commons Attribution No Derivatives license.