Analytical Essay on Primary Sources
In this 5 pages final essay, you will develop your ideas based on my feedback on your draft essay and deepen and extend your analysis of that single primary source.
- You have already chosen a primary source for your Draft Analytical Essay on Primary Sources. You will continue analyzing that primary source. You may choose another topic than the one you analyzed for the Draft Analytical Essay if that is your preference. Eligible primary sources’ list is attached below.
You begin this assignment by reading or viewing the one primary source you chose and analyze its meaning by making notes on your answers to the questions below:
- What kind of primary source is it?
- Who is the author or creator (if known)?
- Can you tell why was it written or created?
- What is the primary source’s tone? What words and phrases (and/or scenes and visual perspectives) convey it?
- What are the author’s or creator’s values and assumptions are? Is there visible bias? Explain your answers.
- What information does it relate? Did the author or creator have first-hand knowledge of the subject or did s/he report what others saw and heard?
- What issues does it address?
- What is your overall assessment of the primary source and its usefulness/significance for the historical study of your topic?
- You can only use sources from the course (required readings from the textbook and websites) for the Analytical Essay on Primary Sources. No sources from outside the course are allowed. Make sure that the ideas and words in your essay are your own. All paraphrases and quotations must have full citations.
Once you have analyzed the primary source by answering the questions, compose your essay using the information and insights from your analysis that you recorded in your notes. Your task in this essay is to summarize and interpret the primary source. Your task is not to argue with or endorse its ideas. Try to maintain an impartial tone. To complete the assignment successfully you need to read the source carefully and analyze its contents. We will practice these analytical skills in the discussion boards and here are some steps to follow as you put your ideas into writing this essay.
Start your essay with your overall impression of the primary sources. Tell the reader what kind of sources they are (images, legal codes, literary texts, travelogues, memoirs, architecture, etc.). Express in your best possible prose the stated or implied the main point of each source and try to surmise from clues in the text (tone, topics, values, etc.) the sources’ purpose. Finish your introduction with your thesis statement which should be your answer to prompt 8. Engage the reader’s interest by using active verbs and active voice.
Next, provide a historical context for the documents. In what kind of society did the primary sources’ creators live? What were the dominant cultural assumptions of the period? How might the sources’ creators fit into this larger background? Do not limit yourself to these questions. Your goal is to present an accurate and concise two- to three-paragraph sketch that places the primary source in its historical context and gives an appropriate factual and thematic background to the specific points you will discuss in the next part of the essay. To provide this context, please consult the course textbook and supplemental web materials that accompany the primary sources in the course.
The next section of the essay should state what you take to be the tone of the primary source, the key issues the source raises, and the information it provides. Be sure to give examples to support your claims about tone and issues. Summarize the source’s main points in detail as you relate them to those issues. Express your ideas as clearly and forcefully as possible and be sure that similar ideas are grouped together around a central issue for each paragraph. Each paragraph must develop one, and only one, identifiable idea. Make sure that your ideas flow easily from one paragraph to another by means of clear transitions.
After summarizing the primary source, it is now time to analyze the values and assumptions it contains. This part of the essay calls for you to make some inferences from the source since values and assumptions are more often hidden and implicit rather than open and explicit. They are the unspoken foundations on which a source rests and they often give it its meaning. Be sure to present those pieces of evidence upon which you make your assessment.
In the conclusion, summarize your main points, discuss the significance of the primary source, and leave the reader with an idea to ponder. Your conclusion should pull your ideas together and flow naturally from the body of the essay.
Remember, always keep the coherence of your essay in mind. Every statement should have a clear relationship to what came before it and what comes after it. Proofread carefully for spelling and grammatical errors and try to leave the reader with a striking final image or impression.
Your essay will receive a grade based on how well it follows the assignment, how thoroughly it answers each question, how well it identifies and differentiates the various elements of the primary source (e.g., tone from value and value from assumption, etc.), how clearly it expresses your ideas, and how well it is written and organized.
Your essay should be no less than 5 double-spaced typed pages in 12-point Times New Roman font with 1-inch margins on all sides. It can be longer, however, Title, Bibliography, and Works Cited pages are not part of the required page count.
The formatting of the essay and all citations need to follow Chicago Manual of Style format. Chicago is the citation and bibliographic style used by historians. Click on the website links below for Chicago-style guides and examples of humanities and author-date citation styles. You may use either humanities or author-date citation styles but use only one of these styles in your work. The author-date citation style is very close to MLA and APA styles. A modified MLA or APA format that provides page numbers from a hard copy of the textbook may be allowed. Check with your instructor. If you are using an e-book version of the textbook, identify passages by citing the chapter, section, and paragraph number.
The website below opens with examples in Notes and Bibliography style (a note [N], followed by a bibliographic entry [B]). If you click on the tab the page will show Author-Date style (an in-text citation [T], followed by a reference-list entry [R]).
The PDF attached below has an example of Chicago-style citation and essay formatting. If you scroll to the middle, you will find an example of Chicago-Style essay formatting.
Essay Resouces for The Empires of Western Africa
The Empires of the Western Sudan: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/wsem/hd_wsem.htm (read The Empires of the Western Sudan page and all the primary essays listed on the right-hand side of the page: 1) The Empires of the Western Sudan: Ghana Empire; 2) The Empires of the Western Sudan: Mali Empire; 3) The Empires of the Western Sudan: Songhai Empire; 4) Trade and the Spread of Islam in Africa; 5) The Trans-Saharan Gold Trade (Seventh–Fourteenth Centuries).
Website: Al-Bakri, Roads and Kingdoms (1067 CE) – http://users.rowan.edu/~mcinneshin/5394/wk05/albakri.htm
Website: Kingdom of Mail (Al-Umari, ca. 1330 CE) – http://www.bu.edu/africa/outreach/k_o_mali/
Website: Leo Africanus describes Timbuktu (1652 CE) – https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/med/leo_afri.asp
Website: Proverbs from Ghana – http://www.bu.edu/africa/outreach/gp/