Primary Source Analysis: Assignment Directions
Due in Class: Tuesday, March 13
The primary source analysis is a kind of specialized form of historical writing that will account for 25% of your final grade. The purpose of this assignment is to develop a critical approach to reading, interpreting, and understanding historical source materials. You are free to choose any primary source assigned as weekly course readings. Sources outside the scope of this class are not permitted. The length of the paper submitted should be roughly 1000 words (a range of 900-1200 is acceptable). Papers should be typed double-spaced in a standard font (if you use a wacky font like Wingdings or Papyrus or Vivaldi you are a jerk, and jerks get 10 points deducted from their total grade) and be organized around a central thesis, with well-developed supporting topic paragraphs.
A primary source analysis asks you to approach historical evidence critically in the form of a close reading of your chosen text. You should ask fundamental questions about its content, context, and significance that help you and others better understand the historical moment it reflects. For example, what are the circumstances of its production: what type of source is it, who wrote it, and why does the identity of its authorship matter, if at all? Where and when was it produced, and why does that matter, if at all? And ultimately, what does the source say? This last question implies not a summary of what the text reads, but what point of view does it project, how is its language and framing important: what does the text say, but what does it omit, and how does its organization inform its point of view and motive? Who is its intended audience, and what is it trying to accomplish? Not all of these questions are applicable to every assigned primary source, but should serve as a model for writing a successful analysis.
The assignment, as its name suggests, is intended to be an analytical exercise in the interpretation of historical evidence. The paper should NOT be structured as a summary of the text or as a response/reflection. Additionally, the paper should heavily cite the chosen source material, and ONLY the source material. Additional outside sources should NOT be cited or consulted in the process of writing this assignment. Citation style is not weighed, but in-text parenthetical citations or footnotes are accepted. Please include page and paragraph number when referring to specific examples in the text. Formal bibliographic or works cited pages are NOT accepted. Any evidence of online plagiarism will result in a grade of zero and further academic dishonesty disciplinary action. To be perfectly clear, DO NOT rely on lazy google searches and Wikipedia to complete this assignment. And furthermore, DO NOT CITE THE INTERNET AS A CREDIBLE SCHOLARLY SOURCE