Primary Source Analysis Essay

A document may be of various types: a written document, a painting, a monument, a map, a photograph, a statistical table, a film or video, etc. Category of document: What is the category in which this document falls (memoirs, poem, novel, speech, law, study, sermon, Church document, song, letter, etc.)? Reaffirm the core thesis of the document/author; present your personal evaluation of it.

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Was the author a direct observer of the event/issue [if this is pertinent] or was the information obtained second-hand? What light does is shed on the society/events/issues described? Are there allusions made by the author that need to be explained? Believability of the document: Given the external analysis and the content of the document, how credible is the information?

Had the author any personal involvement in the events/issues described [if pertinent]? Is it contemporary to the events/issues it describes? Do not only summarize but analyze the document as well: What does the author mean?

Examples of plausible primary materials might include a letter where someone describes a new settlement or some interesting event or happening, an extended diary entry describing daily life at some period in the course, an account of a traveler describing their visit to some community, a political cartoon depicting some important issue or conflict, a newspaper account of some major event or disaster, a photograph of some interesting subject, or some sheet music that speaks to the values, beliefs, or ideas of people from the period.

Sources involving multiple countries might be especially worth considering.

Seek instead to find something that you or the rest of the class would not have encountered in some other context.

Your source should be relatively brief (no more than 10-15 pages, or perhaps a chapter from a book), but long enough and sufficiently detailed so that you can meaningfully describe and contextualize it.

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For short model essays of this type, take a look at the student essays from the he primary source can be related to almost any topic that interests you and that is relevant to the course.

You should look for areas that match your passions, career interests, hobbies, or "research questions of your life." You may find it helpful to look at the list of sub-genres of history that we used earlier in the term.


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