Tips on Writing Primary Source Analysis
Primary sources are a very important tool for research of any kind. For example, in the humanities, you may use such primary sources as journals, literature, and letters. For historical studies, you might use newspaper articles, telegraphs, and journals. The sciences usually imply conducting original studies. You can analyze primary sources and use this information to formulate your own point, considering your subject in a historical context and understanding what areas require more research, as well as what support your thesis needs. Learn more about primary sources from these tips written by the experts from college-writers.com service.
1. Research the author
First, you have to research the author and learn as much as you can about their background. Determine what bias the author holds. Even if the source itself didn’t have a specific agenda, the authors religion, education, biography, and social status can have a significant impact on the content. For example, if the author is a religious person, their opinion on genome editing will likely be biased.
2. Think of how the author was related to the material
When writing about some historical battle, you might prefer letters written by people who actually witnessed these events. Letters written by other people will not be as reliable. However, you can work with newspaper articles that contain interviews with witnesses.
3. Analyze the intended audience for the source
For example, private journals are more reliable because, in this case, the author didn’t try to impress a certain audience, writing only for themselves. Similarly, articles written for a particular group of people must be considered less reliable because their goal was to appeal to a certain audience and its biases. Understanding the audience can help you detect bias and evaluate the source material.
4. Consider your research in historical context
For example, if you see a letter that supports same-sex marriages, it’s not unusual if it was written in the 21st century. However, if you see a similar letter written in the 19th century, this is certainly an outstanding document. It’s very important to consider your sources in the cultural and historical context. In addition, try to understand what events could have influenced the material. For example, some articles might have been written in response to certain economic events. Sometimes, a source may seem to be provocative, but your research may demonstrate that it didn’t get any cultural response at that time.
5. Analyze the purpose of the material
Was it intended to just describe some events, or was it aimed to interpret them? If the author has a particular argument, it must change the way you evaluate the source. In this case, you will have to think about possible biases, while also evaluating the success of this argument.
6. Get access to a physical document
A physical document can provide you with many clues. For example, you may find out that a letter was written on expensive paper, or damaged by water or fire. Such details can help you illustrate the historical context. When having a physical document, you can also determine its authenticity. If you cannot access the physical document, you should still try to evaluate its authenticity using biographical and historical data.
7. Write a thesis statement
When you have the necessary information about your primary source, you can come up with a strong thesis statement that summarizes your analysis. For example, you may point out that your source had a great impact when it was published but didn’t gain historical value. Obviously, your thesis statement depends on your research.
8. Provide answers to as many possible questions as you can in your analysis
Be accurate. You may not be able to answer certain questions, but if you have some answers, make sure to make them detailed. Pay your attention to biographical and historical details, explain the context and the importance of the source.
9. Make sure to provide the necessary support and details
If you have worked with an original document, add a photocopy. Provide your primary and secondary sources in a works cited page. Mention historical accounts biographies and other research materials that helped you prepare your analysis.