Analysis of Sources
Up Writing Guide SOURCES Student Papers Analysis of Sources



Your notebook pages should be divided into left and right sides. The following five questions apply to all primary sources. For any document you are studying you should make left-side notes in your notebooks to answer these questions briefly. If you have any questions or comments of your own about the material, note them on the right side.

FOR EACH DOCUMENT YOU NOTE, BE SURE TO HAVE A RIGHT-SIDE COMMENT ON YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF ITS HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE. Your comment should give your view of how the document could be useful for understanding some historical issue, movement, event etc.

Your notes should touch on the following areas:

1. WHAT KIND OF DOCUMENT IS IT? Is it an essay, diary, report, state paper, poem or piece of fiction, transcript of testimony or meeting etc.? The first thing to do is CLASSIFY the source.

2. WHO IS THE AUTHOR AND WHAT WAS THE MOTIVATION FOR WRITING? Identify the writer as to country, life dates, historical role, etc. The introductions in the source book and the text book should give you this information. Can you discover, from the text book background or from the content of the document, what motive the writer had? [See questions 4 & 5 below.]

3. WHAT IS THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT OF THIS DOCUMENT? What are the place and date of the document? What were the special circumstances of its writing? What was happening at the time?

4. WHAT IS THE SOURCE ABOUT? What is its TOPIC? What do you see as its MAIN POINT or IDEA? The title is usually a good guide to the topic. Note both topic and main point or idea. If the source is an essay or other piece of persuasive writing, you will find that the topic can be turned into a question to which the main idea or thesis is an answer. State both topic and main point in your notes.

5. WHAT ARE THE MAIN PARTS AND KEY WORDS AND PHRASES OF THE DOCUMENT? Here you will note the major sections of the document and a few examples or points the writer makes in developing the main idea. It is important to note also key words, phrases, images, etc.

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