Primary Source Analysis (Instruction for the essay)
Remember that the PSA must be turned in here on Carmen and also on WEx (Links to an external site.).
At this stage, you have already chosen two possible primary sources that fit within the scope of our course theme and written a paragraph in class summarizing each. Now, using your feedback and The Writer’s Companion (especially Chs. 2 and 4), your task will be to choose one of these sources (the one you feel most interested in or that has the most potential for your research project) and write a focused analysis. This will be the primary source you work with throughout the semester.
Below you will find a list of objectives. As you complete the assignment, be sure to refer to these objectives carefully and to consult our textbook, The Writer’s Companion.
This assignment should be 700 words, double-spaced, typed in 12-point font, and set to 1” margins.
- Produce a focused analysis of the primary source you have chosen that fits within the scope of our course theme
- Finish the analysis with a paragraph that includes one or two open-ended research questions that will help guide you toward developing a working thesis and finding secondary source materials (i.e. questions that cannot be answered with “yes” or “no”)
- Create an analysis that will serve as the basis for your secondary source integration assignment, and subsequently the first draft of your final paper, which will be discussed during your research conference later in the semester
- Make sure you understand the meaning of analysis; according to the authors of The Writer’s Companion, analysis is “unraveling a knot, solving a mystery, making something murky clear. To analyze something is to investigate how and why it is the way it is—to seek to understand the way it is working” (2-3). Consider it your job to attempt to define and explain what you see in your primary source. Rather than just answering the question, “What is here?” think about why and how the source uses particular details to communicate something to an audience.
- Remember that this analysis should not be a list. Instead of describing everything about the primary source, focus on the most important aspects of your source and begin to interpret it by ascribing meaning to these details.
- Start your paper by identifying basic information about the source.
- What is it?
- Where did it come from?
- Who made it?
- To get started with your analysis, revisit the preliminary work you have with The Method and other techniques from the analytical toolkit.
- Peruse the Five Analytical Moves to generate ideas (WC, pgs. 35-52). Brainstorm by breaking the source down into its significant parts and describing those parts in detail, talking about the patterns and connections between them, and, most importantly, making explicit the possible implicit meanings of what you see.
- When you begin your analysis, remember to be specific; if the source is text-based (e.g., song lyrics, a selected paragraph from an article, etc.), examine the text line-by-line, teasing out the meanings and implications. If the source is image-based (e.g., a print advertisement), examine all the elements that make up the image or object. This will allow you to observe patterns or connections between elements, and to begin working toward a more informed research question.
- At the close of your analysis, end with one or two analytical “research questions” (questions that arise from observations about the source) that you will use to begin thinking more deeply about your topic and to help you find materials for the upcoming Annotated Bibliography and Secondary Source Integration. We will go over how to develop a research question in class to aid you with this last portion of the assignment.