Primary Source Analysis

Write a 2-3 page paper (500-750 words) that makes and supports an argument interpreting a primary source relevant to our course topics.

Your primary source must be produced before 1840, and must address a course topic.
You may use primary sources that are addressed in secondary texts, but you must locate the full source in a digital database, and analyze the full source – not just the excerpts from a secondary text!
You must use at least 1 relevant secondary source from the class to contextualize and interpret the primary source you choose.
You must include an excerpt (up to 1 page) of your primary source as an Appendix to your paper.You may embed images in a Word document or PDF.
Remember to include a full citation for your primary and secondary sources.

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The goal of this project is to practice skills of historical research and interpretation:

You must find a relevant primary source using digital research tools. You will make and support your own analysis of the primary source you find. You should tell your audience why you think this source is significant and what new things it can show about the past. This requires you to showcase your own analytical skills, and the best way to do this is to use specific examples from both your primary and secondary sources to help your audience see the significance of your source.


2-3 pages (500-750 words). Do not exceed 1000 words.
Use a 12-point standard font, double-spaced with 1 inch margins.
TITLE your paperand include page numbers.
Your essay must be submitted through Canvas as a Word or PDF file. Primary sources can also be .jpg or .tiff files.
You may embed your primary source in your paper, or you can upload a separate file. Use only permanent links to your primary source.
Uploaded files must be titled with your last name: [Larson_Primary Source Analysis]
All sources must be cited using Chicago, MLA, or APA style. UM libraries have citation help here! (Links to an external site.)

Rubric for Grading This Assignment

An “A” project demonstrates that the student

Has identified a key source that offers outstanding insight on the topic and historical time period.
Convincingly applies most relevant secondary scholarly arguments to interpret primary sources in exciting and compelling ways.
Offers original, nuanced, and supported interpretations of primary texts

A “B” project demonstrates that the student

Has identified a source that offers good insight on the topic and historical time period.
Applies relevant secondary scholarly arguments to interpret primary sources solid fashion
Offers supported interpretations of primary texts. These interpretations may clearly draw on others’ work in substantial ways.

A “C” project demonstrates that the student

Has identified a source that offers limited insight on the topic and historical time period. Source may be outside of time period or lack relevance.
Applies few secondary scholarly arguments to interpret primary sources, or does not engage in historical argumentation
Offers little interpretation of primary texts, or has not included primary source excerpt or citation

A “D” project demonstrates that the student

Primary source does not address topic; source is not a primary source.
Offers little or no understanding of secondary scholarly arguments or methods
Offers little or no supported interpretation of primary texts

An “F” project demonstrates that the student

Has not turned the project in or has not found or used a primary source
Primary Source analysis
Primary Source analysis
Criteria Ratings Pts
This criterion is linked to a Learning OutcomeClear Central Claim
Author makes a clear claim that analyzes the primary source and shows why it advances historical understanding of the topic.
40.0 to >36.0 pts
Truly Outstanding
Claim is clear, innovative, and supported logically with advanced interpretation of sources. Entire essay supports central claim.
36.0 to >32.0 pts
A specific claim is stated clearly and supported with sources, and guides essay throughout.
32.0 to >28.0 pts
Generally Good
Claim generally present, and has some supporting evidence and guides essay overall.
28.0 to >20.0 pts
Claim hard to discern, may have limited clarity or support. Claim may be contradicted or not clearly followed throughout essay.
20.0 to >0 pts
No clear claim organizing paper. Claim not related to topic or evidence.
40.0 pts
This criterion is linked to a Learning OutcomePrimary Source Selection
Well-chosen primary source provides excellent insight into historical topic. From relevant historical period, location, and creator.
40.0 to >36.0 pts
Truly Outstanding
Impressive primary source clearly supports central claim and makes exciting contributions to historical understanding. Excellent primary source excerpt clearly & easily accessed.
36.0 to >32.0 pts
Good source clearly supports claim and offers relevant contributions to historical understanding. From relevant time/place/source. Primary source excerpt clearly & easily accessed.
32.0 to >28.0 pts
Generally Good
Acceptable source, though it may offer limited insight, or not speak directly to central claim or research topic. Source may be from questionably relevant historical location. Primary source excerpt missing or difficult to access.
28.0 to >20.0 pts
Limited source. May offer little historical information or relevance, or not be from historical location under investigation. Primary Source excerpt missing or difficult to access.
20.0 to >0 pts
Not a primary source. Not a source addressing the historical topic, or not from an appropriate time period or historical location. Primary source excerpt missing.
40.0 pts
This criterion is linked to a Learning OutcomeSecondary Source Use
Author uses secondary sources to clearly and convincingly interpret the primary source. Secondary sources are relevant and well-represented by author.
40.0 to >36.0 pts
Truly Outstanding
Use of Secondary sources advances interpretation of primary source and support central claim in an analytically sophisticated fashion. Advances readers’ understanding of all sources.
36.0 to >32.0 pts
Good use of clearly relevant secondary sources. Author demonstrates understanding of scholarship and applies it convincingly.
32.0 to >28.0 pts
Generally Good
Author has made some use of a secondary source. Connection may be unclear, or may struggle to show relevance to central claim.
28.0 to >20.0 pts
Author has made limited use of secondary sources. Use may be unclear or not relevant to primary source.
20.0 to >0 pts
Author has not used secondary sources to support central claims.
40.0 pts
This criterion is linked to a Learning OutcomeWriting & Organization
Paper is clearly organized, written in polished scholarly prose, with title.
20.0 to >18.0 pts
Truly Outstanding
Crystal-clear, polished, scholarly prose. All elements of writing contribute to audience understanding and engagement.
18.0 to >16.0 pts
Well-written, clearly organized essay written in strong prose.
16.0 to >14.0 pts
Generally Good
Essay is generally organized and written in acceptable prose. May be missing important elements or struggle with organization or clarity.
14.0 to >10.0 pts
Acceptable writing overall. Essay may have significant difficulties in clarity, organization, or expression of ideas.
10.0 to >0 pts
Significant issues in writing limit reader understanding of essay.
20.0 pts
This criterion is linked to a Learning OutcomeCitation
All sources clearly cited using an accepted style (Chicago, MLA, APA)
10.0 to >8.0 pts
All sources are clearly cited using uniform style without omission or error in required information
8.0 to >6.0 pts
All sources are cited, but may contain some errors.
6.0 to >0.0 pts
Citations are included, but are incomplete or lack key pieces of information.
0.0 pts
No Marks
Essay does not include citations.
10.0 pts

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