Primary Source Analysis Assignment Sheet
Primary Source Analysis Assignment Sheet
Your main assignments for this course will be to conduct primary source analyses of several of the different sources we cover in class. You will turn in three different primary source analysis assignments—one for each topic that we cover in class.
In this assignment, you will choose two primary sources from the unit. For example, in the first unit, you will choose two primary sources that we have read about voting, whether they are about the 15th amendment, women’s suffrage, the Voting Rights Act, etc. Of the two sources you choose to analyze, choose at least one source that is a text (not a photo or image).
The assignment has essentially seven basic parts (that seems like a lot—but some parts require more details than others, so don’t worry!):
- Identify Source 1 (Title, author, etc.)
- Observations about Source 1
- Analysis/Reflection of Source 1
- Identify Source 2
- Observations about Source 2
- Analysis/Reflection of Source 2
- Compare/Contrast both sources, extrapolate meaning, respond to your sources
As I go into more detail about each part, first let me just say that all of the questions listed below are example questions to get you thinking. You do not necessarily need to answer each and every one of them, and there may be important things you wish to bring up that are not specifically addressed in the assignment sheet.
After identifying the two sources you want to analyze (Part 1 and 4), you will offer your observations about them (Part 2 and 5). Observations: These observations can be paragraph or list form. The goal here is to identify what strikes you or has stood out to you about the sources. If it is an image—what do you notice first when looking at it? How are the characters represented? What are people wearing/doing that is interesting or unusual? If it is a text, think about the language/structure/presentation. Are there certain words the author keeps using? Are there specific sentences that stand out to you? Are there certain facts/data/or opinions that are expressed that seem particularly important?
Analysis: For Part 3 and 6, you’ll then take these observations to the next level by trying to determine their meaning and putting them in context. You may need information from secondary sources that we have read for class to help you put the source in context. This section should be about 1-2 paragraphs. Based on what you have noticed, what is the argument or purpose of the source? How is the author trying to get his/her point across? Who is their audience, and how do they address them? Is the author biased in any way and how do you think this source is shaped by the time in which it was created? Think about the observations you made and try to determine why the author made the choice to present information in this way.
Reflection: Finally, you’ll complete Part 7, which will probably be the longest part of the assignment (at least 2 paragraphs). Now that you have analyzed each of your chosen sources, you’ll compare their arguments/audience/purpose/tactics. Even if the sources are from different time periods, do they bring up similar points or use similar language? Are they in agreement or do they have opposing viewpoints? What are some of the most significant similarities or differences and why are these similarities/differences important to understand? Finally, I want you to reflect on your opinions of these sources. How would you react/respond to them? Do you find them effective? What are some of the problems with the sources?
Your final completed document should be 12 pt. standard font (like Times New Roman or Ariel), double spaced, and at least three complete pages. There is an example layout of steps 1-3 below, so you can have an idea of one way this might look.
Further Reading about Analyzing Primary Sources
Primary Source Analysis Example (Parts 1-3 only)
Kirby, Jack. Captain America no. 1, “Meet Captain America” March 1941
- Captain America is punching a Hitler in the face and clearly makes a big impact
- Guns are shooting at Captain America
- Television shows Nazis bombing US Munitions
- There is a map of the US as if the Nazis have been studying it to attack
- At least 4 visible swastikas surround Captain America
- Bright, vivid colors—especially Captain America’s suit
Given the knowledge that America did get involved in WW2 and were strong opponents of the Nazi’s, the content of this document may seem unsurprising. However, upon closer inspection of the date, issue 1 is dated March on the front cover (the inside cover reveals the issue date of March 1941). That means this comic book came out a full 10 months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (December 1941). Captain America’s violent reaction to Hitler shows that a children’s comic book is coming out in support of entering the war while the majority of Americans still opposed the idea. However, the cover plays up the devious danger of the Nazis by surrounding the hero with swastikas and possible plans to attack the US, playing up the fear of Americans and the necessity for intervention. The vivid red, white, and blue of Captain America’s suit stands out as a symbol of American patriotism and the spark created by his punch demonstrates America’s strength.
Captain America creator Jack Kirby – aka Jacob Kurtzberg – was just one of the many Americans who was especially sensitive to the activities of the Nazi party. Being a Jewish American, Kirby was strongly in support of war against the Nazis even before war officially broke out. His character of Captain America was therefore very conscious of the war effort and was constantly fighting Nazi foes. Kirby was not alone in his support of the war and his comic book reveals a large population concerned about rising Nazism and willing to stand against it.
(Example text adapted from https://opencurriculum.org/6626/how-to-analyze-a-primary-source/ You can view the image here too)
You would then repeat this process for your second source and finish the assignment with your reflections/comparisons about both sources.