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HIST 4603 - Research Seminar: Integration at Ouachita Baptist University: Primary Source Analysis

Primary Source Analysis

Due on Moodle by 11:59pm Friday, March 16, 2018.

The third piece of your research project will be to analyze your primary sources. At minimum you should be using at least two separate primary source collections, with at least 12-15 primary sources as evidence for your paper. If you are relying on shorter documents (letters, short newspaper articles, posters etc) your primary source total will be higher.

The evaluation of primary sources has several purposes. You will want to write approximately a paragraph for each section of the below list for each primary sources:

I. Citation – much like a secondary source citation. If it is a written document include author/title/source/publisher (if published)/date. Visual aids should include as many of these elements as possible. Oral histories should indicate the name of the subject and the date and time of interview. If an interview is done by telephone indicate so. If you have a different kind of source and you are unsure how to cite it please contact me. All things accessed on the internet should include a “date accessed” citation as well as a working link to the web page.

Use your Chicago Manual of Style as your primary resource. (Chicago Quick Style Guide or Print version)

II. Describe the document or artifact.

A. Who is the author/creator/preservationist and what can you find out about them? (this will require some background research - cite any information you find)

B. Under what circumstances did the source come into being?

C. Under what circumstances was the source published, preserved or (re)discovered?

D. What was at stake for the author or preservationist of this text/artifact? Why do you think this artifact or document was created or preserved?

III. Argument and strategy

A. What is the text/artifact trying to do? How does the text make its case?

B. What is its strategy for accomplishing its goal? How does it carry out this strategy?

C. What is the intended audience of the text? How might this influence its rhetorical or visual strategy?

D. What arguments or concerns does the author respond to that are not clearly stated?

E. Do you think the author is credible and reliable? Use examples.

IV. Presuppositions and values

A. What ideas and values does the source embody?

B. What presumptions and preconceptions do we as readers bring to bear on this text? For instance, what portions of the text might we find objectionable, but which contemporaries might have found acceptable. State the values we hold on that subject, and the values expressed in the text.

C. How might the difference between your values and the values of the author influence the way we understand the text?

V. Epistemology

A. Does the information within the text seem to be reliable? Why or why not?

B. Does the author seem to be credible? Why or why not?

C. Write more than you think you should for this section – many times students will write, “Yes, this source seems credible” without any real engagement with the issue at hand.

D. If the source seems to have issues with the credibility, write a bit about how you might deal with this issue.


After you analyze your primary sources you will need to write 2-3 pages summarizing and analyzing your source base as a whole.

  1. What patterns, ideas, and/or themes are repeated in two or more sources? (You may have several sets of examples)
  2. What significant inconsistencies do you notice? (You may have several sets of examples)
  3. Considering both what you have found in your secondary and primary source analyses, write a rough thesis statement. This should relate to the historical question or questions you proposed (and may have further developed) in your research proposal. This does not need to follow specific formula, but you should be ready to point to both the main line of argumentation and your general sense of the historical significance of your work. This should be anywhere from a couple of sentences to a paragraph long.
  4. How do the primary sources you analyzed above relate to your proposed argument? Do they as a group fit into your view of your topic? If not, which ones create problems? What new questions arise from those problems?