Document analysis assignment

| January 30, 2015
Instructions for document analysis assignment Length: 1200 words Purpose of the assignment There are many different ways to interpret a primary source document, but historians seek above all to discover both the meaning and the significance of a piece of historical evidence. The term meaning involves the task of determining how a document might have been understood by the historical actors in a particular era. Significance, on the other hand, means relating how the document contributes to a particular interpretation of the past event, process or phenomenon that later-day generations might develop. A good document analysis paper examines both the text itself (with attention to the specifics and nuances of language used) and its context (the broader picture of the history of that period that informs the document). It is this dual approach that separates the methods of historians from those of other disciplines, such as literary criticism or positivist social science (sociology or political science). Here is a list of useful questions that can inform your reading of the historical document: What is the document about? What is the topic of the text? What are the document’s main points? What evidence supports the ideas expressed in the text? (Do not just summarise the contents of the document here). Who is the author? What authority does the author have to write about this topic? What in the author’s background or position might affect his or her point of view? Can you detect a bias in the author’s approach? (Give an example or two). How does the document reflect the author’s beliefs? What is the occasion? When and where was the document written? What events or conditions might have affected the writing of the document? Who is the audience? Who was the intended audience? How might the audience have interpreted and reacted to the content of the text? Was there an audience beyond the intended group? What is the purpose? Why was this document written? Was there an implicit purpose or hidden agenda? Who would benefit or be harmed by the document? Why is it an important source? In what ways does it connect to specific events, phenomena, or themes of the period? (Questions based on Some stylistic rules to follow: Avoid excesses of language and judgment, as well as meaningless comments (e.g. ‘this is a most interesting document’). Be more creative in expressing what makes the document unique or intriguing. Do not use personal pronouns and adjectives (‘I’,‘me’, ‘we’, ‘my’).Type your assignment double-spaced, using 12-point font. You must submit a hard copy: electronic versions will not be accepted.

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