A Unique Template for Reading Any Primary Source
Students of different branches need to analyze different primary sources. They can describe fictional or real events, be physical or digital, written or shaped. But all of them have meaningful content you need to analyze.
The next algorithm will help you retrieve the main information from any document or item. Following it, you’ll get enough details to discuss in your research paper.
Pay Attention to Three Main Elements
Three keys to any primary source are the author, the purpose, and the meaning. Fiction books, letters, reports—all of them contain something the creator wanted us to know.
About the Author
The maker’s biography is the first step towards understanding their work. You can’t see all facets before you know how a certain piece relates to the life of a person who has created it.
So, when you’re assigned to criticize a single work or speak about the professional way of one author, start with their biography. Search for the following data, filtering it to fit your case:
- The author’s century, country, culture, social position;
- The popularity of their work and opinion, the target audience;
- Problems they encountered in the job or life;
- What has inspired them;
- The author’s main concerns;
- Their reputation inside the related community.
But if your work consists of dozens of sources, you can’t just devote all your time to one creator. Instead, focus on the parts directly related to their activity, such as:
- The kind of occupation and country;
- Their specific interest;
- A group, union, lodge, faith they belong to;
- The criticism they receive from other experts.
It’s also the first step to estimate the quality of the source. You discover details about the developer’s professionalism, experience, and responsibility. If the author fails your assessment, you either don’t use the source or read it with increased accuracy.
About the Topic
You must concentrate on analysis as soon as you begin to read. The heading, abstract, summary, foreword, introduction, description—they’re all made to familiarize you with the creation. If you miss the purpose of the piece, all arguments will just pass you.
Look if the author left you a distinct or secret message. Based on your findings and guesses, formulate the thesis consisting of questions raised. The maker wants to talk about social injustice? Show the backside of an ordinary thing? Or cover a specific gap in the science?
To understand it, concentrate on finding answers to the following questions:
- What is the main topic? Is there a reason for choosing this topic exactly?
- What are the related questions the creator investigates?
- What do they try to change by raising this issue? Can you suspect an ulterior practical motivation?
- What does the author think about their writing or creation? How does it contribute to the field?
- Is this subject popular? What does the world have to say on its account?
If you can’t derive the topic, it may not be your but the creator’s fault (or conception). They may just not state it clearly and lead readers in confusion. Reflect this in your review and express possible reasons for why this takes place.
During all the scrutiny, you should pause and digest what you have just learned. Mental and digital notes will help you memorize significant blocks of the content, making your writing process easier.
About the Content
Your source may be long or short, simple or elaborative, and you can apply your own methods of analysis to it. But your goal is comprehending what the author is trying to tell you, so you should have a set of guiding questions.
Take the following list into account when examining the developer’s speech:
- Who is the author addressing? Is it a community, government, or someone’s work? What unites the author and the addressee?
- Can you spot dissatisfaction or excitement? What are the main concerns?
- What arguments does the author present? Are you persuaded? Can you remember or suggest better examples?
- Can you come up with another interpretation of the evidence presented?
- Are the author’s words ambiguous?
- Can you spot logical fallacies, plot holes, errors in the style, format, structure?
- Are reviews positive or negative? Do you have to add something no one is noticing?
Control your thoughts in the process of analysis. Don’t invent anything that the creator hasn’t told; don’t put their words out of context. Your friends are the logic, perception, and objectiveness, whether you admire the author’s opinion or disregard it. Express your views in counter-arguments and facts, not emotions and prejudices.
Give an Assessment
After thorough exploration, you can give your final score to the source. It defines whether you can rely on it, support your argument with it, or recommend it for others to read it.
Base your opinion on these factors:
Ideally, the author should have no personal interest in writing a personal essay. But since it’s impossible, we must at least make sure it doesn’t distort the information. Think about what hidden motivation rules the creator and how it affects the truthfulness and quality.
Take here biases and intentional or accidental misinterpretations of facts by the maker. We as humans possess different knowledge and experience, and we can’t give up our personality completely. But serious violations of objectivity distance us from the truth.
- Your findings
Sum up everything you have discovered:
- Author’s proficiency and background;
- How well the main and secondary themes were developed;
- The present state of research, the shift of opinions in the field;
- Power of arguments, how clear the author perceives information;
- Ambiguousness of facts, evidence, and results;
- Contribution to the net of knowledge;
- Logical mistakes.
Speak With the Author
During your research, you must converse with creators as if they were sitting in front of you. Interrogate them about each curious or obscure part you’re reading. However, instead of spoken answers, you must pay attention to what they have already written and made. If the reply is too complicated, look for the explanation of a professional critic. For a moment, you should reduce the importance of your opinion and listen to another one. It will give you grounds for better ideas to reflect in your paper.