Students have two options for completing the document analysis writing assignment.
The first option is to write an assignment focused on a single source. Students who choose this option will:
1. work with a single primary source selected from the sources posted online (including any selection from the
American Yawp Primary Source Reader)
2. explain how that single document illustrates a few key concepts / ideas / sensibilities characteristic of the
time, place and culture in which the source was written. It is up to students to decide which ideas / sensibilities
are evident in the selected source.
The second option is to write an assignment focused on a single idea. Students who choose this option will:
1. identify a central concept, idea, or sensibility that was salient in American thought and culture from the period
of 1607 1865.
2. trace the development or permutation of that single theme / idea over time, drawing evidence from multiple
primary sources. It is up to students to decide which sources can best illuminate the historical development of a
particular idea / theme.
For either option, students must:
1. follow the guidelines listed in the syllabus regarding appropriate secondary sources
2. format the paper according to the guidelines listed in the syllabus, making sure to stay
within the word length boundaries of the assignment
3. use Chicago Manual of Style citation style for all citations. Use footnotes, not endnotes,
and include a bibliography page. For specific details on CMS citation style and formatting of footnotes, you may
consult the following online resource for guidance: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/717/01/
There is no minimum number of secondary sources required to complete this assignment. What this assignment
does require is that you make an argument based on evidence evidence from the primary source(s), further
illuminated or contextualized by reference to evidence from relevant secondary source(s).
This paper must advance an arguable claim.
That claim could take one of two forms, depending on which option you choose. A claim for Option A might go
something like this:
[Primary Source X] reveals the importance of [or the relationship between, or the contested nature of, etc]
the ideas of [A and B, or A B and C, etc] in American history during [the time period this document represents].
A claim for Option B might go something like this:
[Primary Sources A, B, and C] reveal that [idea X] has been an important [or contested, or influential, or
fairly stable or constantly changing, etc.] idea in American history from [era Y] to [era Z].
That claim is your paper s thesis statement.
The body of your paper will advance that central claim, one step at a time.
Each paragraph of your paper is a single step toward advancing your larger claim. So the first sentence of each
paragraph will make an assertion about one aspect of your larger argument. And the rest of the sentences in each
paragraph will support that assertion and only that assertion. Thus, each paragraph has one topic, and the first
sentence of each paragraph is the topic sentence for that paragraph.
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