Review Essay History Internet

Guidelines for Writing a Critical Analysis of a Primary Document


The process. In the process of critical analysis, a student closely examines a single text (in this case, a primary document) written by a single author in an attempt to understand why the author wrote the particular text, in a particular way, to a particular audience, and for what purpose. Thus, the student seeks to determine: 1) what the author argued or described, 2) how the author presented his/her argument or interpretation, 3) why the author chose that method of presentation and persuasion (in other words, what did the author view as the evidence and arguments that would most likely persuade his/her audience, what assumptions did the author expect his/her audience shared, and what assumptions did the author challenge), and 4) what the author ultimately hoped to achieve by writing the text.

A critical analysis might be considered the first step in reading a document that might later be used as evidence in a research paper. A student engaged in critical analysis probes for underlying assumptions, perceptions, values, and biases—elements that are present in all texts. Once the author’s perspective, method, and purpose have been identified, a scholar can determine how those shape the “evidence” (the author’s descriptions, ideas, concerns, arguments) that the text presented. Some texts present a “narrative” rather than a clearly defined argument. Yet even those texts are influenced by particular values and concerns, and most offer some message, whether implicit or explicit.

In the process of critical analysis, the student is not evaluating or judging the accuracy, the validity, the logic, or the persuasiveness of an author’s evidence, ideas, or interpretation. Since the student is not the author’s intended audience--the author was writing to an audience of his/her contemporaries--the analysis does not focus on whether the author has convinced the student of the argument and/or ideas presented, nor should the student search for present-day relevance in the text. Similarly, this is not a research paper. Instead of considering and using the information that the document contains as “evidence” to explore broader historical issues or contexts, the student’s focus stays squarely on the author and the text.

A critical analysis presents a careful examination of one author’s rendition of an event, an experience, an issue, an argument, or some aspect of his/her society. The analysis should not attempt to recreate the author’s experience or to establish whether the author was “representative” of his/her society.  Indeed from one document alone you cannot make such generalizations about either the author or the larger society. Finally, the student engaged in critical analysis attempts to determine how the author viewed and understood his/her society, rather than explore “the reader’s” perspective about or reaction to that society. The text itself does not provide evidence of how the author’s contemporaries read and responded to it. Rather than focusing on your reactions as a reader, use your reactions as you read the text to lead you to new questions about the author’s purpose and perspective.

The essay. Try to choose a text (a primary document) that has a clear argument or message. (While some primary documents offer intriguing evidence or insights into the writer’s thoughts or experience, these documents might be more difficult to subject to critical analysis.) After you have carefully read and analyzed the text, you should be ready to write the first draft of your essay. More than likely your first draft will be preliminary, for only in the process of writing do most students finally commit themselves to an argument and interpretation about the author and text. Indeed, as you write, you may find that your argument becomes clearer and more persuasive. In either case, you should revise the first part of your essay to reflect the discoveries you have made by the end of your essay.

Begin your essay with a sentence or two about the author, the date and title of the text, the occasion for which the text was written, and the general subject of the document. In a footnote or endnote, provide a full citation for the text (see below). You might offer a very brief statement about the author at the time during which the text was written. In your introductory paragraph, present a brief summary of your interpretation of the author’s perspective, method, and purpose in writing the text. The summary might contain a series of statements that lead up to your thesis statement. You do not need to describe the process of critical analysis; your essay should present the results of that process.

In the body of your essay, you may find that the most efficient and effective way to discuss and analyze the text is to move step by step through the text. After all, that is how the author intended the text to be read or heard. As you present the points that the author makes (offer quotations from the text as evidence for your discussion), begin to construct your analysis, and continue to build and develop your interpretation as your essay progresses. In your essay, use the simple past tense to describe what the author wrote: this serves to remind both you and your readers that the author wrote for an audience of his/her contemporaries. Whenever possible, use sentence constructions with the active voice rather than passive voice (the verb “to be”). Active verbs reiterate the author’s active role in creating the text and the argument, and they encourage you to make connections and draw conclusions about the author and the text.

      *      *      *      *      *

OptionalAfter you complete and conclude your analysis of the text, you should have a clear understanding of the assumptions, perceptions, and perspective that shaped the author's discussion and argument (whether explicit or implicit), as well as the author's method of persuasion.  How might you use this text as evidence in a research paper about the era?  For what questions about historical issues or contexts might this text provide answers?  In this optional section, you are welcome to discuss your evaluation of the accuracy, the validity, the logic, or the persuasiveness of an author’s evidence, ideas, or argument.  You may also present your understanding of the larger historical context in which the author wrote the text.

Citations. Historians use either footnote or endnote citations, following the Chicago Manual of Style format for Notes and Bibliography, rather than parenthetical citations and Works Cited pages. For most of the primary documents selected for critical analysis, the first citation of the source will contain reference information for two sources: the primary document and the collection (the secondary source) in which it is reprinted (see footnote 1 for example). The reference information for subsequent citations (e.g., quotations from the document) should be shortened, using the last name of the author of the document and an abbreviated title, followed by the page number (see footnote 2 for example). When you cite information or commentary written by the editor of the collection, cite that author and text (see footnote 3 for example). In general, place the footnote reference number at the end of the sentence; it should follow all punctuation marks (see footnote 2 above). If you need to provide a footnote in the middle of a sentence for reasons of clarity, place the reference mark at the end of a clause and its punctuation.

  1. Mary Rowlandson, The Sovereignty and Goodness of God . . . Being a Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson (Boston, 1682), reprinted in Charles H. Lincoln, ed., Narratives of the Indian Wars, 1675-1699 (New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1913), 122.
  2. Rowlandson, Sovereignty, 125.
  3. Charles H. Lincoln, ed., Narratives of the Indian Wars, 1675-1699 (New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1913), 120. (shorten for subsequent citations: Lincoln, Narratives, 120.)

For additional information on citations:

  • Chicago-Style Citation Quick Guide from the Chicago Manual of Style
  • Bowdoin Library Chicago Quick Guide for the Notes and Bibliography style.
  • Mary Lynn Rampolla, A Pocket Manual to Writing in History, 3rd ed.
  • Kate Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 6th ed.
  • Diana Hacker, Research and Documentation Online (Bedford/St. Martin's Press).
  • H-Net, A Brief Citation Guide for Internet Sources in History and the Humanities.
  • Andrew Harnack and Eugene Kleppinger, Online! A Reference Guide to using Internet Sources (Bedford's/St. Martin's Press, 2003).

Food for Thought:
[Giles:] “But don’t you see, Gwenda, that the way we must look at it now, we can’t depend on anything anyone says.”
“Now I’m so glad to hear you say that,” said Miss Marple. “Because I’ve been a little worried, you know, by the way you two have seemed willing to accept, as actual fact, all the things that people have told you. I’m afraid I have a sadly distrustful nature, but, especially in a matter of murder, I make it a rule to take nothing that is told me as true, unless it is checked. . . . You believed what he said. It really is very dangerous to believe people. I never have for years.”

Agatha Christie, Sleeping Murder (New York, Bantam: 1976), 252.

REFERENCING ESSAYS IN MODERN HISTORY

Writing a History essay is not just about writing a narrative, biography or chronology of an event, person or period of time: It requires the construction of an argument in answer to the question posed. During research for your essay you will find that the evidence may suggest several answers to the question. You will therefore form your own opinion through evaluation and analysis of sources and this will be the basis of the argument put forward in your answer.

It is because of the emphasis on evaluation and analysis in the writing of history, that it is essential to acknowledge sources used in your work through the use of a referencing system. In the Department of Modern History either footnotes or endnotes are necessary, using the Chicago referencing style.

Study Abroad students are expected to conform to this system unless otherwise notified.

Why reference?

  • It shows the person marking your work the sources that you have been accessing.
  • It establishes that your argument is one formed by knowledge of a range of authors' opinions - use of this knowledge will make your argument stronger.
  • It allows the reader to quickly identify and verify the sources you have used.
  • Most importantly, it is how you recognise your intellectual debt to others.

When to footnote

  • It is essential to footnote when you are making use of someone else's words, information or ideas as evidence for your argument.
  • Failure to acknowledge this in your own work amounts to plagiarism, i.e., presenting another person's work as if it were your own.
  • It is simply not acceptable to plagiarise, and any piece of work found to contain it will be failed automatically. For more information on Macquarie University's policy on plagiarism go to http://www.mq.edu.au/policy/docs/academic_honesty/policy.html
  • Plagiarism can be avoided by using sources correctly.

Using sources in your essays
If you use another person's ideas or information in your essay then you need to acknowledge this use through referencing. Such material may be included in the following ways:

  1. Direct Quotation

This is when you use the author's exact words. The authors words must be placed in quotation marks, with a footnote number at the end of the quotation.

  1. Paraphrase (indirect quotation)

This is when you rewrite someone else's ideas in your own words. The footnote number is placed at the end of the sentence, after the full stop.

  1. Summary (indirect quotation)

This is when you make reference to an author's ideas or argument. Again, the footnote number is placed at the end of the sentence, after the full stop.

Quotations of more than forty words should be indented using single spacing, without quotation marks, with the footnote provided at the end of the paragraph after the full stop. For example:

Some sources suggest that Britain was interested in colonizing NSW for commercial purposes; none of the plans for settlement of NSW, official or unofficial, omitted to mention trade or resource considerations.1

To indent a quotation:

Highlight the words you want to indent. Go to the Format menu and select Paragraph. Choose the Alignment - Left. Under Indents and Spacing adjust the Indentation for at least the left by the required length, for example 1.5cm. Check line spacing is set to single, then click on OK. You will need to reinstate normal format settings once you have created the indentation.

Other sources that need to be referenced

  • Images, figures, tables, graphs, maps and diagrams, frame enlargements from films.
  • Information from lectures - the lecturer's words, notes taken during the lecture, information from slides and overheads.

What does not need to be referenced

  • Common knowledge - information that is general and well known, that is, in the public domain. For example, the Second World War ended in 1945.
  • Your own ideas, arguments and visual materials.

Ask the unit convener for advice if you have any doubts about whether to reference or not.

Preparing footnotes

  • Footnotes appear at the bottom of each relevant page of your essay, whereas endnotes are located at the end of the document.
  • Sometimes because of lack of space at the bottom of a page, Word will move footnotes over to the next page. Do not worry if this happens.
  • Titles of books, journals, etc. can either be underlined or written in italics, but not both.
  • Punctuation and the use of capitals are important in footnotes, so pay attention to this in the examples below.

How to create a footnote or endnote using Microsoft Word
Go to the Insert menu and select Footnote (or in the 2003 version click Reference). Choose footnote or endnote. For endnotes you will need click on the options button at the bottom of the box and choose 1,2,3, in the number format, then press OK. Make sure the numbering is continuous and applies to the whole document.

Additional material in footnotes

The Department of Modern History discourages the placing of non-bibliographical material in footnotes, as this indicates lack of editing and an attempt to get around the word limit. An exception is the inclusion of a translation of material included in the main text.

Footnotes

Different sources require different formats when creating footnotes as the examples below will show, but generally you need to include the following information:

Name of author
Title of the source
Name of the city and publisher of the source
Date of publication
Page number(s)

Books
1 Simon Ryan, The Cartographic Eye: How Explorers saw Australia (Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 45.
(Note that book publication details are placed in brackets in footnotes.)

Books with two authors
2 Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper, Forgotten Armies: The Fall of British Asia, 1941 - 1945 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2005), p. 30.

Books with four or more authors
3 Patricia Grimshaw et al.Creating a Nation (Ringwood: Penguin Books Australia Ltd., 1996), p. 79.

Multivolume work
4 Winston Churchill, A History of the English Speaking Peoples, vol. 2, The New World (London: Cassell, 1956), p. 124.

Translated book
5 Christine de Pizan, The Book of the City of Ladies, trans. R. Brown Grant (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1999), p. 48.

Chapter in an edited book
6 Gareth Williams, "Popular Culture and the Historians," in Making History: An Introduction to the History and Practices of a Discipline, ed. Peter Lambert and Phillipp Schofield (Abingdon: Routledge, 2004), p. 260.

Journal articles
7 M.N. Pearson, "Pilgrims, Travellers, Tourist: the Meanings of Journeys," Australian Cultural History 10 (1991): p. 127.

Conference papers
8 Tony Dingle and Seamus O'Hanlon, "Space For Your Imagination: De-industrialising and Re-imagining Inner Melbourne c1970-2000," in Past Matters: Heritage, History and the Environment, Proceedings from the 8th Australasian Urban History/ Planning History ConferenceWellington, NZ, 2006, eds. Caroline Miller and Michael Roche, (Palmerston North, N.Z: School of People, Environment and Planning, Massey University,  2006), pp. 409-412.

Electronic journal articles
9 Georg Iggers, "Historiography from a Global Perspective," History and Theory 43, no. 1 (2004), http://www.blackwell.synergy.com/doi/abs, p. 149.

Encyclopaedia and dictionary entries

10 Murray Goot, 'Askin, Sir Robert William (Bob) (1907 - 1981)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, 17 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2007), pp. 35-40.

Book reviews
11 Colin Seymour-Ure, review of World War II in Cartoons, by Mark Bryant, History Today, 55, no. 9 (September 2005): p. 55.

Unpublished manuscript material
12 John David Booth, Papers, 1984-1990, MLMSS7332, State Library of NSW, Sydney.

Government Publications
13 Cumberland County Council (NSW), The Planning Scheme for the County of Cumberland, New South Wales/ the report of the Cumberland County Council to J.J. Cahill, 27th July 1948, Sydney, 1948, p. 2.

Statistics from ABS
14 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Labour Market Statistics April 2003, Cat. no. 6105.0, Canberra, 2003, http://www.abs.gov.au.

Information from a lecture
15 Jane Smith, "Women Politicians of the Twentieth Century" (Lecture given at Macquarie University, NSW, March 7, 2005).
16 Jane Smith, "Women Politicians of the Twentieth Century" (Lecture slide, Macquarie University, NSW, March 7, 2005).

Theses and dissertations
17 Robert Firestone, "The Australian Garden City: a planning history 1910-1930" (Ph.D., thesis, Macquarie University, 1984), p. 12.

Internet sources
References for internet sources must give the author and/or title of the material and the URL (website address) to enable the reader to find the source easily. It is optional to provide the date on which you accessed the source online. Not all website sources are reliable - for guidance on how to assess sources on the internet go to Macquarie University Library's
'Evaluating Information on the Internet' at http://www.lib.mq.edu.au/research/evaluate.html

18 "Australians at War: First World War 1914-1918," Australian War Memorial, available from http://www.awm.gov.au/atwar/ww1.htm

Audio-visual sources
19 Steven Spielberg, Schindler's List, (Universal Pictures, 1993)

Note that the inclusion of the production or distribution company is not compulsory. If you

are engaged in intensive film analysis it will be of great assistance to the reader of your work if you specify the chapter or minute mark.

if you specify the chapter or minute mark.

Newspapers and magazines
20 M. Lake, "The Howard History of Australia," The Age, August 20, 2005, p. 5.

For articles with no listed author:
21 "History with a Raw Edge," Sydney Morning Herald, November 10, 2003, p. 12.

If you access the newspaper or magazine online you must include the URL address.

Citing a source read in another source
22 Paul Keating quoted in Richard Connaughton, Japan's War on Mainland Australia 1942-1944 (London: Brassey's, 1994), p. 11.

Images, figures, maps, and other visual material
Every image, figure or map used should be provided with a caption naming the source of the illustration and title:

From a book:
Map: The Religious Complexion of Europe in the Period c. 1555-8
Source: Euan Cameron, The European Reformation, New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

For works of art include the name of the artist and title of the work and source:

Herbert Badham, The Swimming Enclosure, 1941. Source: State Library of NSW, Sydney.

Note that these sources do not need to be included in your bibliography.

Second and later references
After the first, full reference of a source you can then use an abbreviated version in your footnotes or endnotes. In the example below, footnote 25 is abbreviated because the source has already been cited in footnote 23. Similarly, footnote 26 is an abbreviation of the source cited in footnote 24. Note the difference in the abbreviation of a book and a journal article:

23 Simon Ryan, The Cartographic Eye: How Explorers saw Australia (Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 45.
24 M.N. Pearson, "Pilgrims, Travellers, Tourist: the Meanings of Journeys," Australian Cultural History 10 (1991): p. 127.
25 Ryan, The Cartographic Eye, p. 67.
26 Pearson, "Pilgrims, Travellers, Tourist," p. 131.

BUT

Use Ibid in your footnotes when the source you are citing is the same as the one cited in the immediately preceding footnote:  

23 Simon Ryan, The Cartographic Eye: How Explorers saw Australia (Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 45.
24 Ibid., p. 67.

Bibliography

At the end of your essay list all the books, articles and other sources that you have cited in alphabetical order by the author's family name. You can divide the bibliography into sections, i.e. primary and secondary sources.

Note that a bibliography is required in addition to references (footnotes or endnotes). Formats used for bibliographical entries are different from those used for references.

Books
Ryan, Simon. The Cartographic Eye: How Explorers saw Australia. Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Books with two authors
Bayly, Christopher and Tim Harper. Forgotten Armies: The Fall of British Asia, 1941 - 1945. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2005.

Books with four or more authors
Grimshaw, Patricia, Marilyn Lake, Ann McGrath, and Marian Quartly. Creating a Nation. Ringwood: Penguin Books Australia Ltd., 1996.

Multivolume work
Churchill, Winston. A History of the English Speaking Peoples. Vol. 2, The New World. London: Cassell, 1956.

Translated book
de Pizan, Christine. The Book of the City of Ladies. Translated by R. Brown Grant. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1999.

Chapter in an edited book
Williams, Gareth. "Popular Culture and the Historians." In Making History: An Introduction to the History and Practices of a Discipline, edited by Peter Lambert and Phillipp Schofield. Abingdon: Routledge, 2004, pp. 257-268.

Journal articles
Pearson, M.N. "Pilgrims, Travellers, Tourist: the Meanings of Journeys." Australian Cultural History 10 (1991): pp. 125-134.

Conference papers
Dingle, Tony and Seamus O'Hanlon. "Space For Your Imagination: De-industrialising and Re-imagining Inner Melbourne c1970-2000." In Past Matters: Heritage, History and the Environment, Proceedings from the 8th Australasian Urban History/ Planning History ConferenceWellington, NZ, 2006, edited by Caroline Miller and Michael Roche. Palmerston North, N.Z: School of People, Environment and Planning, Massey University, 2006, pp. 401-412.

Electronic journal articles

Iggers, Georg. "Historiography from a Global Perspective," History and Theory 43, no. 1 (2004) http://www.blackwell.synergy.com/doi/abs: pp. 146-154.

Encyclopaedia and dictionary entries

Goot, Murray. 'Askin, Sir Robert William (Bob) (1907 - 1981)'. Australian Dictionary of Biography, 17. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2007. pp. 35-40.

Book reviews
Colin, Seymour-Ure. Review of World War II in Cartoons, by Mark Bryant. History Today 55, no. 9 (September 2005): pp. 55-56.

Note that for the bibliographical entries for chapters, journal articles and electronic journal articles you need to include the full page range of the text, whereas footnotes and endnotes just require the page number from which you are drawing the cited information.

Unpublished manuscript material
John David Booth, Papers, 1984-1990, MLMSS7332, State Library of NSW, Sydney.

Government Publications
Cumberland County Council (NSW). The Planning Scheme for the County of Cumberland, New South Wales/ the report of the Cumberland County Council to J.J. Cahill, 27th July 1948. Sydney, 1948.

Statistics from ABS
Australian Bureau of Statistics. Australian Labour Market Statistics April 2003. Cat. no. 6105.0. Canberra, 2003. http://www.abs.gov.au.

Lectures
Smith, Jane. "Women Politicians of the Twentieth Century." Lecture given at Macquarie University, NSW, March 7, 2005.
Smith, Jane. "Women Politicians of the Twentieth Century." Lecture slide, Macquarie University, NSW, March 7, 2005.

Thesis and dissertations
Firestone, Robert. "The Australian Garden City: A Planning History 1910-1930." Ph.D., Thesis, Macquarie University, 1984.

Internet sources
"Australians at War: First World War 1914-1918." Australian War Memorial.
http://www.awm.gov.au/atwar/ww1.htm

Audio-visual sources
Spielberg, Steven. Schindler's List. Universal Pictures, 1993.

Newspapers and magazines
Lake, Marilyn. "The Howard History of Australia." The Age, August 20, 2005.

For articles that do not list an author, put the name of the newspaper first:
Sydney Morning Herald, "History with a Raw Edge," November 10, 2003.

For further information on referencing and compiling bibliographies, including sources not mentioned here, the following books and resources will be useful:

  • Jules R. Benjamin, A Student's Guide to History, 8th edition, (Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2001)
  • Style Manual for Authors, Editors and Printers (Canberra: AGPS, 1994)
  • The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, (Chicago:University of Chicago Press, 2003)
  • Chicago-Style Citation Quick Guide available online at

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

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