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For this assignment, you will need to analyze a primary source from United States History produced within the time frame of the 1860s through the 1960s. Please note that I will not accept any primary source that is not of the United States and/or falls out of the specified time frame.

Two resources for finding primary sources are the Library of Congress  (Links to an external site.)(LOC) and the National Archives  (Links to an external site.)(NARA). Each website has vast archives of primary sources for you to choose one of your personal interests for this assignment.

How Do I Analyze a Primary Source?

In writing your paper, you must address the following questions. Do not simply list answers to the questions below. Rather, you must write your paper in essay form. It should have an introduction, a thesis statement, several body paragraphs, and a conclusion. You do not need to address the questions in order, but be sure that you address all questions that are relevant to your source in your essay.

  • Basic Identification
    • What type of source is it? (newspaper article, map, letter, film, etc.)
    • When was it created?
    • Where was it created?
    • Who created it?
  • Author’s Intent
    • What is the author’s place in society? (profession, status, class, gender, ethnicity, etc.)
    • How might the factors listed in the question above shape the author’s perspective in this source?
    • Why do you think the author created this source?
    • Does the author have an argument? If so, what is it?
    • Who is the intended audience for this source?
    • How might the intended audience shape the perspective of this source?
  • Historical Context
    • Under what specific historical circumstances was this source created?
    • What larger historical events, processes, or structures might have influenced this text?
    • Is this source consistent with what you know about the historical record from that time?
  • Content of the Source
    • What historical facts do you learn from this source?
    • What biases or other cultural factors might have shaped the message of this source?
    • How do the ideas and values in the source differ from the ideas and values of our time?
    • What historical perspectives are left out of this source?
    • What questions are left unanswered by this source?
  • Relevance of the Source
    • How might this source confirm or contradict issues raised in other primary sources?
    • How might this source confirm or contradict issues raised in secondary sources?
    • Does this source represent any patterns with other primary sources?

What are the Requirements?

Your paper has to be written in a standard essay format as discussed above. The cover page of your paper will have an inserted copy of your primary source along with your name, course name/course number and the due date. Your paper will be a 4-6 page analysis of the source (not including the cover page or bibliography).

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