analysis of primary sources

The type of analysis work you need to do for the final project is very similar. Each source analysis you write (one per source), will need to have the following five sections below, and should be roughly 2 pages each:

1) Purpose: All sources have a purpose, in that all sources aim to communicate something. This can be explicit (say, in a political speech) or more implicit (like clothing styles). To complete this question, your response should address some of the following questions:

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Who is the author and what is her or his place in society (explain why you are justified in thinking so)?
What is at stake for the author in this text?

What are they trying to accomplish by writing this text?
Why do you think she or he wrote it? What evidence in the text tells you this?
Does the author have a thesis/argument? What is that thesis/argument?

Again, the source will dictate how precise you are able to be. For example, if you are analyzing a speech by Hitler, it’s pretty easy to determine who the author is. If you are analyzing an article by an anonymous person, you may have to look for clues to make educated guesses. For example, if you had an anonymous article that was published in Louisiana that was against the Haitian Revolution, you could logically conclude that the article was written by a white slave owner (or at least someone with a vested interest in slavery) who lives in the South.

2) Argument: Again, you might not able to answer each of the below questions for each source, but this section should address some of the following questions:

How does the text make its case?
What is its strategy for accomplishing its goal? How does it carry out this strategy?
What is the intended audience of the text? How might this influence its rhetorical strategy?
What arguments or concerns does the author respond to that are not clearly stated? (In other words, not all arguments are direct or explicit. Sometimes it is helpful to read between the lines)
Do you think the author is credible and reliable?

3) Presuppositions: This is about considering the assumptions and/or unconscious biases in the text, as well as being self-aware in terms of what your own biases might be. This section should address at least some of the following:

How do the ideas and values in the source differ from the ideas and values of our age?

What presumptions and preconceptions do you as a reader bring to bear on this text? For instance, what portions of the text might you find objectionable, but which contemporaries might have found acceptable?
How might the difference between our values and the values of the author influence the way you understand the text?
Example: If you were analyzing a speech from an apartheid-era politician in South Africa, you might be able to find evidence in their speech that they believe races should be kept separate. A source from the 1700s will likely present assumptions about gender/sexuality/women/etc. very different then our own. Finding these types of assumptions in each source is what this section is about.

4) Epistemology: This is basically a fancy way of saying, how one knows what one knows. For example, Galileo’s epistemology in terms of astronomy was based on evidence he observed with his telescope—which was very different than the epistemology of the Catholic Church as the time. This section should answer:

What kinds of information does this text tell you without knowing it’s telling you?
How does this source evaluate truth? Or, what types of information (personal experience, religion, scientific experiments, news reports, etc.) does your source rely on?
How well is the source’s method of evaluation of truth, in your opinion? Where/how might their method fail them?

Again, to go back to Galileo—his sketches of the moon tell us that he values direct observation, the ability to repeat that observation, the scientific method, etc. This section may be short, depending on the source. Some sources might rely on personal experience, hearsay, rumors, etc.

5) Significance: This is where you reflect on why your source is significant to your topic. A speech by Hitler would be significant to Nazism because he was the party’s leader. A speech by him about racial science would be particularly significant given that this was a crucial part of what Nazi rules were based on, etc. A diary of someone who experienced the fall of the Berlin Wall would be significant to that topic, since it would shed light on how this impacted people’s daily lives. Why your source is significant will vary depending on your topic.

Once you finish both source analyses you will write a 1-page reflection as detailed below:

Relate and Compare: This is where you put your two sources into conversation. This is why I’ve been asking you to find sources that will overlap (or speak to each other), and that will provide different perspectives on your topic. Answer at least some of the following questions:

What patterns or ideas are repeated throughout the two sources?
What major differences appear in them? Why might they be different?
Which do you find more reliable and credible?

Formatting: You will write a source analysis, modeled on the above format, for each of your five sources. Each section should be a paragraph, roughly equal in size (though again, it’s okay if some of your epistemology sections are relatively short).
You should use Times New Roman, 12pt font, double spaced, 1” margins.
Each source analysis should be about 2pgs. It’s okay to be ¼ page under or over, but no more or less.
Your source comparison should be 1 full page.
In addition to your writing, please turn in a copy of each source. You can do this by copy-pasting, providing a link, etc. I want to be able to see your sources.
Finally, provide a list of both sources with complete citation details [Author, Title of Source, Publisher (if a book), Publication (if a newspaper or magazine), Original Date published, page number(s) if relevant, and the archive, website, sourcebook, etc. where you found it]. This might be the same list you turned in on April 20th—but I realize some people might change sources, so that’s why I want to see your final list.
In sum: you need two source analyses (2pgs), a comparison of the two sources (1pg) one list of the two primary sources, and a link to each source.

How you will be evaluated:
Analysis: Given this a primary source analysis project, this is obviously going to be the most important part of the assignment. How carefully did you read/examine your sources? How thoughtfully did you consider the identity of the author, and how this might influence the text? How well did you pick up on differences and similarities between two sources in your comparison section? Etc.
Writing Quality: Are there typos? Is the writing clear? Are you using your language efficiently, or is there a lot of filler and repetition?
Following Directions: This is simple. Have you found two primary sources that provide different perspectives on the same topic? Are they from different databases/collections? (i.e you cannot do both from NYTimes archive, etc.) Does your list of sources have all the needed details? (If a source is anonymous, write anonymous for author) Did you turn in a link to each source? Have you written about 5pgs total?

it will be about the Berlin fall and the book will be masterpieces of history: the peaceful end of the cold war in europe.

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