Analyzing a document involves asking the "five Ws" -- who? what? where? when? why? -- and using these answers to explain its significance to the history of the period.
1. Who wrote the document? What is the author's "bias"?
Who is the intended audience?
2. What type of document is it (e.g., personal letter, official report, diary entry)? What is the topic (subject) and thesis (what the author says about the subject) of the document?
3. Where was the document written? Is this place the subject of the document? What importance does the setting have to understanding the document?
4. When was the document written? What was the historical context for the document (i.e., what was going on at the time which might have influenced the author's opinions?)
5. Why was the document written? The purpose may be stated in the document itself or it may have to be inferred by reading between the lines (Is it, for instance, an attempt to justify/explain the author's behavior?). Is the document credible (believable); why or why not?
These five questions should help you evaluate the document and explain its significance to our historical understanding. What does the document reveal about European society, politics, economics, or culture of the time? What does the document mean to us in 2000?
Begin your examination of the source by answering the questions above. Much of the contextual material can be found in Perry's Western Civilization. Once you have answered each individual question, consider how these answers fit together, and synthesize your findings into one to two summary paragraphs for your journal. Make sure your journal entries include the author and title of each excerpt. You may want to combine entries dealing with the same topic.
The presentation measures your ability to explain historical sources and arguments to others and to involve your classmates in meaningful discussions of our Western past. Each student will have 5-10 minutes to present his/her document to the class. You may use handouts or overhead transparencies to illustrate your points.
1. Introduce yourself and the document(s) to the class;
e.g., "My name is Jane Smith, and I'll be looking at three excerpts describing
conditions in the first factories of Industrial Britain."
2. Cover all the topics raised by the questions above.
3. Speak loudly, clearly, and enthusiastically.
4. Try to involve your classmates in the discussion.
5. Use note cards or an outline. DO NOT read directly from a script.
You will receive two grades for your presentation: one for content and
the other for format.
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