HIS 202 – Western Civilization II – Reading Paper #2
In this assignment, you will use the “SCIM” method to analyze and interpret an historical document as a primary historical source (https://www.historicalinquiry.com/scim/index.cfm). While you may read any introductory (secondary) material included with the document, your paper should focus on the document itself.
Choose one of the documents posted on Blackboard for Week 2. Written documents will probably work best for this assignment, although you may use an image if you prefer.
The SCIM method involves four stages of interpretation:
• Inferring, and
Your paper should be two or three pages in length, with one paragraph devoted to each stage of this process. You will probably want to read (or look at) the document more than once, asking yourself different kinds of questions each time. I don’t expect you to answer every question, but use the following as a framework.
The first paragraph of your paper should summarize the document you’ve selected. Questions to consider here include:
1. What type of document is this? Consider its genre: letter, fictional story, etc.
2. What specific information, details, or perspectives does the document provide? Consider key facts, dates, ideas, and opinions contained in the source.
3. What is the subject and purpose of the document? Consider what the document is explicitly about, and look for indications of what its author hoped would happen because of it.
4. Who were the author and audience of this document? Consider whether the document gives any explicit or implicit indication of its source and destination.
The second paragraph should contextualize the document, or place it in time and space. Questions to consider here include:
1. When and where was the document created? Consider clues in the document itself, not just what is stated in the introductory material.
2. Why was the document created? Consider not just its stated purpose, but also what your knowledge of its time and place might tell you about its meaning.
3. What was happening at this time and in this place? Consider secondary sources here (notes from class lectures, textbooks, and any introductory material included with the document).
4. How does placing the document in its historical context help you to better understand it? Consider whether your knowledge of this context sheds light on anything you found confusing while writing your first paragraph.
The third paragraph should infer, or draw out meaning based on clues in the document. Questions to consider here include:
1. Does the document suggest anything that it doesn’t state explicitly? What?
2. Could the document be interpreted in more than one way? How?
3. What is the point of view represented by the document, and how might that point of view differ from other perspectives on the same events?
4. What does the document leave out? Does that omission mean something?
The final paragraph should monitor, or reflect on your reading of the document. Questions to consider here include:
1. What additional information might you need to answer your questions about this document?
2. What words or phrases within the document still don’t make sense to you?
3. How did the document help you to better understand the time and place in which it was created?
4. What questions from the earlier stages should receive more attention than you can give in the space of two or three pages?
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