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Module 4: Analyzing and Contextualizing Sources

In this module, students will work with both primary and secondary sources to:

  • engage in methods of primary source analysis, examining both the content and context of sources;
  • consider local, regional, and national contexts;
  • identify secondary sources that will be useful for their project.

Due date for Module 4 Assignments: Friday, June 26, 2020 by 11:59 p.m.

Deadline for Module 4 Assignments: Saturday, June 27, 2020 by 11:59 p.m.

Analyzing Primary Sources

Assignment 10 (15 pts): Select 3 of the 5 sources you located for Assignment 9 (of at least two different types) to analyze. Look at the list of source types and analysis sheets below, and use the analysis sheets specific to your source types. NOTE: There are short videos in each analysis sheet–It is suggested that you watch them. They are helpful in understanding source analysis.

Analyzing Advertisements

Analyzing Letters and Diaries

Analyzing Maps

Analyzing Monuments

Analyzing Numbers

Analyzing Oral Histories

Analyzing Photographs

As you analyze your primary sources, keep the following in mind:

  • How your interpretation of the source will help you answer your research question you developed in Module 1.
  • How you will explain the importance of the source to your audience on your site.

Post a link to your analyses in the #assignment10 channel on Slack.

Local History and Context

The significance of local history primary sources and the information they contain goes beyond what can be identified through analysis of the kind you just completed in Assignment 10. Your sources also need to be understood within a broader historical context. It may be useful to think of context in three parts:

Identifying Secondary Sources

Answering questions about the contexts of your primary sources requires drawing on secondary sources, material that contains the research of historians (and other disciplines, depending on your topic and question).

Read: David Rotenstein, “My Community’s History is Racist. How Can I Correct It?”

As the reading from Rotenstein demonstrates, thinking about history involves more than documenting the features of a particular geographic space. In order to make sense of local historical events, it is necessary to assess the broader social, cultural, economic, and political contexts in which they occurred. In this module, we turn to secondary sources to enhance our understanding of local history.

Scholarly secondary sources draw on primary sources and the work of other scholars to offer an interpretation of history. These works evaluate, analyze, synthesize, summarize, and interpret primary sources and construct narratives about the past. Examples of scholarly secondary sources include:

  • Reference books
  • Journal articles
  • Historical monographs
  • Biographies of historical figures
  • Critical studies
  • Exhibitions
  • Audio projects (such as podcasts)
  • Documentary films

A key task of studying local history is identifying which secondary sources will be useful for your project. Much like primary source research, there are a number of local repositories with secondary source material. Depending on your status as a researcher, there may be barriers in accessing some types of material.

Assignment 11 (15 pts): In this assignment, you will create a bibliography and share it in an online group library. NOTE: There are multiple steps involved in this assignment, so follow the directions carefully and in order.

Step One: Using your research question as a starting point, create a survey of secondary resources available to you that considers the following:

  • What types of secondary resources are available at your local institutions (including the GMU library) that can help to answer your question?
  • Are there library guides on your subjects or time periods?

Step Two: Develop a bibliography of at least five secondary sources for your project.

Step Three: Get familiar with Zotero by watching & working through the following tutorials:

Step Four: You will receive an invitation to Join our Private Group Library; post your bibliographies there.