primary source analysis

This assignment has two parts. Your 2-3 paper should be double-spaced, with standard one-inch margins, and must be typed. It should be written in grammatically correct prose. Your paper should not have any quotations, unless you are directly quoting your primary source. In that case you should keep it short.

Step 1

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Choose one of several primary sources I have assigned over the course of the semester. This includes any of the written documents I assigned, as well as photographs, cartoons, films, or the song “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” which appear in my lecture slides or the modules. All of these are primary sources. Please note, however, that not all of the films are primary sources, only those that were created during the period it examines. For example, Duck and Cover is a primary source. It was created in 1951 and it depicts life in 1951. Harvest of Empire is not a primary source. It is a documentary that was created in 2012 about life in the 1940s-1980s. For more information about primary sources, see here:
(Links to an external site.)

Step 2

Write a 2-3 page paper analyzing the source. At the top of page one you must list the name/title of the source, the author/maker, the date or date range it was created, and module where you located it. See example below.


Title: Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases

Author: Ida B. Wells

Date: 1892

Module #8: The Challenges of the 1890s

Next, put on your detective shoes and think about the following questions.

Who created the source and why?
Do they have any biases? How do these biases shape the source?
What does the source tell us? What is the context? What do we still need to figure out?
Can you think of other sources that might support and/or contradict what this source says/shows?
How might you use this source in a larger history project?

I also recommend using the relevant primary source analysis worksheet from the National Archives. I included these in the “files” tab on Canvas. If you are unsure which worksheet to use, please let me know and I will assist you in determining which one is most appropriate.

You do not necessarily need to answer all of these questions, in this order. I included them just to give you a sense of the type of questions you should be asking yourself as you analyze your source. Neither do you need to include all of your answers from the analysis worksheets. The goal is to critically evaluate your source. Just like detectives, historians do not take evidence at face value. You must dig a little deeper.

Your paper should be written as a narrative. First, describe your source. This should take about a paragraph. The remainder of your paper should be analysis.

Due Friday, December 4 at 11:59p.m.

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