Text Primary Source Analysis Paper
The purposes of this assignment are to foster a deeper understanding of the historian’s craft and to hone critical analysis skills using primary sources. Select one source to analyze from those listed on Blackboard for the first half of this semester, up to the Midterm. In the second half of the semester you will also select one source to analyze from the readings we look at from after the Midterm up until the Final Exam. You may turn in the first Analysis Paper at any time during the first half of the semester up until the Midterm, and similarly, you may turn in the second Analysis Paper at any time during the second half of the semester up until the Final.
First, identify and summarize the source (approximately 1-2 pages). Try to answer the following questions.
1. Who created it? (Not just a name, what is this person’s background? Is he or she rich or poor? Etc. Why is this significant? Do we even know who the author is? If not, why might this be important?)
2. What type of document is the source? Consider the intended audience (for example, public or private, educated elite or “for the masses,” etc.)
3. Briefly summarize the content of the source. For example, what factual information is conveyed? What type of language is used? What conclusions are drawn by the author?
Second, analyze and contextualize the source (approximately 1-2 pages). Use the following questions to guide your analysis.
1. In what historical context was it written? (What is going on at the time? Location?) What assumptions are made by the author about the events or ideas of the time?
2. Expand upon the role of the audience of the source. How do you think they would have reacted to this source?
3. What was the creator’s motive? (WHY did the author choose to commit this document to writing?)
4. What purpose did it serve? (Think short-term effects.) What was the impact? (Think long-term effects.) Were there any unintended consequences?
5. How is this source useful to historians? (This might be the most important question to try to answer!)
These questions are suggestions. Depending on which source you select, some of these questions might be impossible to answer. Treat this assignment like a detective looking at a clue. This is not meant to be research paper exactly. Most of these questions can be answered using your own interpretation of the work and what you have learned from class (and from your textbook). Feel free to speculate, and thus, demonstrate your critical thinking abilities.
Resist the urge to treat this as a simple report on the original source. I am looking for an analysis of the selection you choose. Additionally, please do not consult or use sources outside of the course textbook or websites such as Wikipedia. If you rely on such materials you are not doing what the assignment asks you to do! I am most interested in seeing how you apply your own critical thinking in the analysis. Back up you claims with evidence and quotations from the primary source. Be certain that you connect the source to specific course material in the textbook or from lectures. Cite a specific page of the textbook or a specific class meeting. When you cite the textbook or lecture material from a specific class meeting, you simply need to put this in a parenthesis at the end of the given sentence. For example, (Frankforter, p. 125) or (Lecture: Egyptian Civilization, Jan. 27).
The paper should be 2-4 pages in length, typed, double-spaced with 1 inch margins and in 12-point font size. Your name at the top of the paper is all that is needed. You do not need any heading beyond that. Do not create a bunch of spaces between paragraphs or between your name at the top of the paper and the body of your analysis. This just wastes space and it is easy to tell when someone is doing this by beginning the paper half way or more down the first page.