Some thoughts on Document Assignments

In no particular order:

  • Be careful about using the language of historical documents.
    • Careful paraphrasing makes it clear that you understand the material in a way that shallow paraphrasing does not.
    • Be careful not to copy the bad habits, slurs and errors of your sources: e.g. “papist”
  • The textbook is an excellent source of historical context, both prior background and responses. You shouldn’t be guessing until you’ve at least examined what the book has to say.
    • However, you also need to show me that you’ve read the document, not just the textbook, by engaging it in some detail.
  • Two points on writing and structure:
    • As I said before, the questions in the assignment sheet are guidance, and if they’re not relevant or you don’t understand them, don’t try to answer them.
    • Take a minute or two after writing to think about whether you’ve got the material in the right sections. Don’t shift things around to make the sections look balanced: put the relevant material where I am supposed to find it.

Finally, I’m only getting document assignments from about half of you. Why? It’s not really that hard of an assignment: read something, summarize it, read the textbook to see where it fits in the history, and think about it a little. I’m not saying that doing it well is easy, but at least do it: these documents will show up on tests, and will also be required for the final exam take-home essays. If you’ve been reading them all along, you’ll have a much better sense of what it all means at the end.