The following rubric describes levels of competence in completing a Primary Source Analysis on a history exam or homework assignment.  

A primary source is something from the time and place you are studying.  To analyze a primary source historically, you need to understand all of the following:

  • CONTEXT: the historical situation in which the primary source was produced.
  • CONTENT: the major point or meaning of a primary source in its historical context.  This can differ significantly from what the primary source may appear to mean to the modern observer.
  • CONSEQUENCES: the effects or significance of a primary source in history.

A Primary Source Analysis should be a substantial paragraph in length (5-7 sentences).  A bulleted list (such as above) is acceptable, provided that the information in each bullet is complete. See Primary Source for more information on analyzing sources historically.

Levels correspond roughly to letter grades (4 = A, 1 = F), although criteria will vary somewhat depending upon the nature and level of the class. 

Level Criteria
4
  • CONTEXT: thorough knowledge of what the source is, who produced it, where, when, and why it was produced.
  • CONTENT: sensitive and sophisticated understanding of the meaning of the source in its historical context; appreciation of the complexity or subtlety of the source. 
  • CONSEQUENCES: clear grasp of the effect or importance of the source in history.
3
  • CONTEXT: good knowledge of what the source is, who produced it, where, when, and why it was produced; no more than one of the above elements incomplete.
  • CONTENT: good understanding of the meaning of the source in its historical context. 
  • CONSEQUENCES: clear grasp of the effect or importance of the source in history.
2
  • CONTEXT: good knowledge of what the source is, who produced it, where, when, and why it was produced; no more than two of the above elements incomplete or missing.
  • CONTENT: adequate understanding of the meaning of the source in its historical context; some important points missing. 
  • CONSEQUENCES: some grasp of the effect or importance of the source in history.
1
  • CONTEXT: little or erroneous knowledge of what the source is, who produced it, where, when, and why it was produced; more than two of the above elements incomplete or missing.
  • CONTENT: no understanding of the meaning of the source in its historical context; major points missing or incorrect.
  • CONSEQUENCES: no or erroneous understanding of the effect or importance of the source in history.