Primary Source Analysis

Primary Source Analysis:

1. Find two primary sources.

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For the first primary source analysis, your goal is to find a primary source relevant to the first 13 lectures covered, and for the second primary source your goal is to find a primary source relevant to the last 13 lectures discussed. I highly encourage you to first find sources that you are personally interested in investigating. If you like surfing, then choose a source related to that topic. If you enjoy music, choose a song. The goal here is to not only explore the source, but also come to understand the variances within American history.

Think creatively about the sources as well. Take a look around your house or even speak to someone you know that may offer you access to unique primary sources. These sources could be something from an archive long ignored or even be a family heirloom. I have had a student work on a photograph from a family’s settlement in Oklahoma and another take an oral history of their family members. I recommend consulting the UNF Archives here, or any reputable digital repository like the Digital Public Library of America ( or the Library of Congress (
(Links to an external site.)
). Primary sources are all around you, all you have to do is look and find them.

Warning: Do not use Primary Sources discussed without the lectures, or found within the American Yawp itself. Also, check to see if your

2. Begin developing your understanding of the primary source.

Begin with the American Yawp to start to understand the larger scope of what the source means and is. First determine the source’s historical era, and then identify the themes influencing the themes. There are an infinite number of different themes, but they largely fall within the fields of social (gender, race, class, etc.), geographic, economic, or political. Find the chapter most relevant to the primary source’s era and theme and read all about it. If you want more information, examine footnotes within the American Yawp to try and track down information related to the source’s historical context. Go to a library and begin reading books about the era related to the source. If you are still confused about the source, talk to me. I am sure we can come to some understanding of where to take your inquiry from here.

3. Begin developing your understanding of the historical context of the source. Rely on the American Yawp, and the sources that the American Yawp uses in its own footnotes.

Once you understand the source, your responsibility is to share your understanding of the primary source with your community. As a historian, this means you need to build an argument explaining the historical context and using evidence to support that explanation. Like other papers, this means you will make claims and then back those claims up with evidence. Below is an outline detailing the most basic structure of a historical argument. I recommend following it. If you have questions, ask me.

1. An introduction.

A. Provide a hook

B. Introduce the primary source.

Who created it?
What is the primary source?
Why did they create it?
When was it created?

C. Thesis Sentence: Give your reader a roadmap to the analysis by introducing them to the key aspects of the primary source you are going to explain.

2. Argument (this is the most important section)

A. You should have at the very least three paragraphs within this section.

B. Each paragraph should explore one key aspect to the primary source.

C. Every paragraph should start with a claim about the source, and then it should go use evidence from both the primary source and the secondary source to prove that claim.

3. Conclusion

A. Sum up your argument

B. Discuss the historical significance of the events discussed

4. Appendices for images or additional tabular materials

5. Bibliography (Chicago/Turabian)

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