You begin this assignment by reading or viewing the primary source you chose and analyze its meaning by making notes on your answers to the questions below: What kind of primary source is it? Who is the author or creator (if known)? Can you tell why was it written or created? Can you tell who the intended audience was? What is the primary source’s tone? What words and phrases (and/or scenes and visual perspectives) convey it? What are the author’s or creator’s values and assumptions are? Is there visible bias? Explain your answers. What information does it relate? Did the author or creator have first-hand knowledge of the subject or did s/he report what others saw and heard? What issues does it address? What is your overall assessment of the primary source and its usefulness/significance for the historical study of your topic? You can only use sources from the course (required readings from the textbook and websites) for the Analytical Essay on Primary Sources. No sources from outside the course are allowed. Make sure that the ideas and words in your essay are your own. All paraphrases and quotations must have full citations. Once you have analyzed the primary source by answering the questions, compose your essay using the information and insights from your analysis that you recorded in your notes. Your task in this essay is to summarize and interpret the primary source. Your task is not to argue with or endorse its ideas. Try to maintain an impartial tone. To complete the assignment successfully you need to read the source carefully and analyze its contents. We will practice these analytical skills in the discussion boards and here are some steps to follow as you put your ideas into writing this essay. Start your essay with your overall impression of the primary source. Tell the reader what kind of source it is (image, legal code, literary text, travelogue, memoir, architecture, etc.). Express in your best possible prose the stated or implied thesis or main point of each source and try to surmise from clues in the text (tone, topics, values, etc.) the sources purpose. Engage the readers interest by using active verbs and active voice. Next, provide a historical context for the documents. In what kind of society did the primary sources creators live? What were the dominant cultural assumptions of the period? How might the sources creators fit into this larger background? Do not limit yourself to these questions. Your goal is to present an accurate and concise two- to three-paragraph sketch that places the primary source in its historical context and gives an appropriate factual and thematic background to the specific points you will discuss in the next part of the essay. To provide this context, please consult the course textbook and supplemental web materials that accompany the primary sources in the course. The next section of the essay should state what you take to be the tone of the primary source, the key issues the source raises, and the information it provides. Be sure to give examples to support your claims about tone and issues. Summarize the source’s main points in detail as you relate them to those issues. Express your ideas as clearly and forcefully as possible and be sure that similar ideas are grouped together around a central issue for each paragraph. Each paragraph must develop one, and only one, identifiable idea. Make sure that your ideas flow easily from one paragraph to another by means of clear transitions. After summarizing the primary source it is now time to analyze the values and assumptions it contains. This part of the essay calls for you to make some inferences from the source since values and assumptions are more often hidden and implicit rather than open and explicit. They are the unspoken foundations on which a source rests and they often give it its meaning. Be sure to present those pieces of evidence upon which you make your assessment. In the conclusion, summarize your main points, discuss the significance of the primary source, and leave the reader with an idea to ponder. Your conclusion should pull your ideas together and flow naturally from the body of the essay. Remember, always keep the coherence of your essay in mind. Every statement should have a clear relationship to what came before it and what comes after it. Proofread carefully for spelling and grammatical errors and try to leave the reader with a striking final image or impression. Your essay will receive a grade based on how well it follows the assignment, how thoroughly it answers each question, how well it identifies and differentiates the various elements of the primary source (., tone from value and value from assumption, etc.), how clearly it expresses your ideas, and how well it is written and organized.
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