Document Analysis Form

Rationale

Analyzing historical documents requires students to identify the purpose, message, and audience of a text. Document analysis forms are graphic organizers that guide students through a process of identifying important background information about a document (e.g., author/creator, date created, place, format, etc.) and using this data to determine the text’s bias or perspective.

Procedure

  1. Construct Your Document Analysis Form
    Document analysis forms typically ask students to record basic information, such as:
    • Author/creator
    • Context (place and time of the document’s creation)
    • Intended audience
    • Purpose for the document’s creation
    • Type of document (photograph, pamphlet, government-issued document, newspaper article, diary entry, etc.)
    • Main points expressed in the document
    • General message of the document (What is it trying to say? What perspective does it represent?)
    • Significance (So what? Why is this document important?)
    See the accompanying handout for a document analysis form that you can distribute to your students. You can also customize your form based on the type of documents students are working with.
  2. Help Students Complete a Document Analysis Form
    Students can work on document analysis forms on their own or in small groups. To ensure accountability, it is often best if students have to complete their own forms, even if they are working in small groups. Showing students an example of a completed form or modeling how to complete one helps them better understand what accurate, thorough answers look like.
  3. Students Share Their Ideas
    Completing these forms is just the first step of document analysis. Students learn much more when they have to explain their ideas and hear other interpretations. After students have had the opportunity to work with their classmates, they can revise and update the information on their forms. Sharing their analysis can also stimulate interesting discussions about the message and significance of a document. In this way, completing document analysis forms can function as a pre-discussion activity.

Handout

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