Analyze the document based on the questions below
How to Read Primary Source Documents
When confronted with a primary source document you should ask yourself several questions first:
Reading with the grain
- What type of document is this? Is it a diary? A government document? A memoir? A document of a particular organization (what then is the purpose of the organization? Political? Religious? Etc.)? How does the type of document impact it’s message?
- Who is the author? What can we find out about the author? Or must we infer information about the author from their writing? If so, what can we infer?
- How was the author involved in the events described in the document? How might that affect their interpretation of events?
- When was the document produced? Was it during the event? Or at a later date? How might that affect what is said in the document?
- Who was the intended audience? Was the document written to persuade a particular person or group to an action? Was the document written to be public? Or private?
- Look carefully at the language being used (terms, ideas, images, point of view) to help identify the author’s viewpoint.
Reading against the grain
- What might be the author’s biases? How can we see bias? Does the language in the document indicate bias? Or does it indicate a particular viewpoint?
- Whose voice is silenced in this document? What and who are not mentioned, or if they are mentioned but then ignored? How might they interpret the events in the document differently?
- Are there contradictions in the document?
- What is the cultural stance of the author? How do they present their culture versus others?
- What are the limits of the information in the text? What do these limits suggest? [out of space? Ignorance of a topic? Disregard for particular people/places? Etc]