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The purpose of this assignment is to work on how to analyze a primary source. Your goal is to analyze your source excerpt as deeply and as thoroughly as possible. Do not simply provide a general summary or overview of your source. Think concretely and critically about its content, its historical context, the cultural values that shape it, and its relevance to research you would like to conduct. What are the author’s tone, style, and argument? What are its strengths and weaknesses? Read between the lines to discover its biases and assumptions. 

In structuring your Primary Source Analysis Essay, you may address the following questions. Do not simply list answers to the questions below. Rather, you must write your paper in a short-essay form. It should have an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Each student’s Primary Source Critical Analysis will be read out loud by your instructors and workshopped in-class. We will address conduct and courtesy for this process, accordingly.

Basic Identification

1. What type of source is it? (newspaper article, map, letter, film, etc.)

2. When was it created?

3. Where was it created?

4. Who created it?

Author’s Intent

1. What is the author’s place in society? (profession, status, class, gender, ethnicity, etc.)

2. How might the factors listed in the question above shape the author’s perspective in this source?

3. Why do you think the author created this source?

4. Does the author have an argument? If so, what is it?

5. Who is the intended audience for this source?

6. How might the intended audience shape the perspective of this source?

Historical Context

1. Under what specific historical circumstances was this source created?

2. What larger historical events, processes, or structures might have influenced this text?

3. Is this source consistent with what you know about the historical record from that time?

Content of the Source

1. What historical facts have you learned from this source?

2. What biases or other cultural factors might have shaped the message of this source?

3. How do the ideas and values in the source differ from the ideas and values of our time?

4. What historical perspectives are left out of this source?

5. What questions are left unanswered by this source?

Relevance of the Source

1. What research question are you using this source to answer?

2. How might this source confirm or contradict issues raised in other primary sources?

3. How might this source confirm or contradict issues raised in secondary sources?

4. Does this source represent any patterns with other primary sources?

1,000-word requirement. MLA format (including works cited).


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