Document Analysis Worksheets: Teaching Students to Successfully Analyze Primary Sources Begins with Teaching Them to Ask (and Answer) Good Questions. the Following Worksheets, Developed by the Education Staff of the National Archives, Are Intended to Guide Student Analysis

Article excerpt

The first worksheet, "Introduction to Documents" suggests an activity to orient students to documents. The subsequent worksheets focus on different types of primary sources: written documents, maps, photographs, cartoons, artifacts, sound recordings, motion pictures, and posters. Each offers suggestions for how students might "read" a document in order to understand its content and significance. They begin by asking students to locate and identify the basic components of the document--the date, author, physical qualities, etc. Later questions encourage students to critically about the document's content.

Introduction to Documents Worksheet

1. This evening, with the help of a family member or an adult who is close to you, look through the souvenirs of your life that have been saved as you have grown. For example, these might include a photograph, a letter, a diary, a newspaper clipping, a birth certificate, a report card, or a library or social security card. Select one item to bring into class that you are willing to share with your classmates and teacher.

2. During your turn in class, present your document and provide the following information:

a. What type of document is this?

b. What is the date of the document?

c. Who created the document?

d. How does the document relate to you?

3. Consider, for your document and the documents of your classmates, responses to the following questions:

a. What does the existence of this document say about whoever created it?

b. What does the existence of this document say about whoever saved it?

c. What does the existence of this document say about American life in this era?

Written Document Analysis Worksheet

1. Type of Document (Check one):

[] Newspaper    [] Map             [] Advertisement
[] Letter       [] Telegram        [] Congressional record
[] Patent       [] Press release   [] Census report
[] Memorandum   [] Report          [] Other: --

2. Unique Physical Qualities of the Document (check one or more):

[] Interesting letterhead   [] Seals             [] Other: --
[] Handwritten              [] Notations
[] Typed                    [] "RECEIVED" stamp

3. Date(s) of the Document:

4. Author (or creator) of the Document:

Position (Title)

5. For What Audience was the Document Written?

6. Document Information (There are many possible ways to answer A-E.) A. List three things the author said that you think are important:




B. Why do you think this document was written?

C. What evidence in the document helps you to know why it was written? Quote from the document.

D. List two things the document tells you about life in the United States at the time it was written:



E. Write a question to the author that is left unanswered by the document:

Map Analysis Worksheet

1. Type of Map (check one):

[] Raised relief map   [] Satellite photograph/   [] Artifact map
[] Political map       [] Weather map             [] Contour-line
[] Natural resource    [] Topographic map         [] Pictograph
[] Bird's-eye view     [] Military map            [] Other: --

2. Physical Qualities of the Map (check one or more):

[] Compass     [] Title            [] Notations
[] Date        [] Legend (key)     [] Name of mapmaker
[] Scale       [] Handwritten      [] Other: --

3. Date of Map:

4. Creator of Map:

5. Where was the map produced?

6. Map Information

A. List three things in this map that you think are important:




B. Why do you think this map was drawn? …