For this assignment, you will write a short (around 400-500 word) critical evaluation of one of the secondary sources for your research project. You should pick the secondary source (whether a book or an article) that is most important to your research, and which you think would be of value to the larger public to learn about. You’ll post your polished critique as an entry on our CoW Latin America website. The model is a book review from a historical journal.
Approaching this assignment.
- Read your chosen source carefully, making notes as you go. Here are some great tips on reading scholarly works in history.
- Identify the thesis, main point, and purpose of the book/article (usually found in the introduction.)
- Consider the author’s use of sources. What kinds of primary sources did the author employ? How does the author use these primary sources as evidence to support his/her arguments?
- Read the introduction carefully. How does the author think his/her interpretation fits in with those of other historians? What does he/she argue is his/her historiographical contribution?
- From your perspective, what are the major contributions of this source? What weaknesses are there? How does this case study contribute to our understanding of modern Latin American history?
- Use quotations judiciously, and analyze what you think they mean.
When evaluating your secondary source critique, I will look for evidence that you have:
- Formulated a persuasive thesis statement
- Reached a conclusion about the argument, evidence, and contributions of the source
- Supported your arguments with specific examples [note: be careful of using too many direct quotes – you have such a tight word limit that it makes more sense in most cases to paraphrase the author’s arguments and cite the relevant page numbers]
- Organized your entry logically and compellingly.
- Written with clarity and attention to matters of style and form. I try to allow at least 24 hours to set aside my own drafts before making final revisions. Having a friend or Writing Center tutor read over your paper can be a big help.
- Cited all direct quotations or paraphrasing of someone else’s arguments correctly, providing the author’s name, title of the work, and page cited.
- You must stay within the 400-500 word limit; forcing you to make choices about what information to present is one of the goals of this assignment.
Remember, a source critique is not a book report. Critical analysis goes beyond summarizing the contents of a book or article to a deeper critique of the author’s contributions.
Sources for samples of good critical book reviews:
The American Historical Review The Hispanic American Historical Review
The Journal of Latin American Studies All available online through JStor.
Post as a timeline entry to our website by Friday, March 27.
Note: this scholarly source critique can be an expansion of one of the entries from your prospectus, but you must significantly improve/expand your entry. This entry does NOT count as one of your 10 timeline entries.