43.106 Modern World History

Fall 2001, Prof. Carlsmith

Guidelines for the Primary Source Analysis


Topic:                         Select one primary source from the time period 1750-2000 that is (or will be) historically significant.  The type of document that you choose—political, social, artistic, economic, philosophical, religious, etc.—is up to you.  Select a source in which you are genuinely interested, and which has enough substance to justify a 5 pp. paper. 


                                    Your paper should introduce the document and explain its historical context (who wrote it, when, where, and why); it should briefly summarize the content of the document (not more than 25% of the paper); and it should analyze the document’s importance in modern world history.  You might want to compare this document to others that are similar, or you might analyze reactions to it in past and present.             


Due Date:                  Wednesday, November 8.  Late papers will be docked two points per day.


Length:                      5 pages (ca. 1300 words).


Style:                          All papers must be typed or word-processed.  Use a one-inch margin on all sides, and double-space the text. Select a standard 10 or 12 pt. font (e.g, Times New Roman, Arial).  Use page numbers. A title page is not necessary. Staple all pages together.  If you cite a source or use a quotation, you must document this with an endnote, a footnote, or parenthetical citation (also known as social science notation).  Do not mix styles of documentation.  Avoid monotonous vocabulary and vary your sentence structure.  Beware of excessive use of the passive voice!  Use transitions to link  your ideas from one paragraph to the next.  Use specific examples whenever possible.


Thesis:                       Your paper should have a clear and unambiguous thesis.  It does not have to be complex or brilliantly original, but it must unify the information presented in your paper.  A good thesis usually makes an argument rather than simply stating the obvious (e.g., “Olympe de Gouges’ Declaration of the Rights of Woman in 1791 was an early call for gender equality and women’s political rights but most of Europe did not accept these ideas for another century,” not “This document was important for women’s history”).  You are encouraged to consult with the professor regarding a possible thesis statement.


Sources:                     The UML Library contains a wealth of resources; the Reference Librarian Ron Karr can help you.  In my office, you might consult one or more of the following to browse for ideas:  Andrea and Overfield, The Human Record, vol. II;  Mark Kishlansky, Sources of the West, vol. II;  Oliver A. Johnson, Sources of World Civilization, vol. II; Peter N. Stearns, Documents in World History, vol. II; Dennis Sherman, Western Civilization: Sources, Images, and Interpretations; Paul Halsall’s Internet Modern History Sourcebook, http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/modsbook.html.


                                    Because the majority of your paper will analyze one document, a separate bibliography is not required for this paper. However, you should explain what version/edition of the primary source you are studying, so that other scholars could consult it.  If you cite other scholars’ interpretations of that document, then you must cite them as well.