Document Analysis 2 Review

The document analysis we read merits an A grade because of its clear and sophisticated thesis, organized paragraphs, and useful corporation of evidence. The thesis, “Peter the Great and Catherine the Great stratified and expanded governmental roles in order to strengthen Russia’s international presence and to pacify conflict within and regulate the daily lives of the nobility and townspeople,” is specific and clear. While this thesis does answer the prompt, it focuses on one particular aspect of the readings: the stratification and ranking of Russian citizens. By narrowing in on one theme in the readings, the paper is able to develop fully its ideas, instead of spreading itself too thin.

Furthermore, the body paragraphs in the paper are organized very well. Each paragraph starts off with a topic sentence which introduces the mini argument within the paragraph. For instance, the second paragraph begins, “This new system also
spoke to Peter’s desire for Westernization, especially his imitating of
European militaries to strengthen Russia’s own armed forces.” With this sentence, the reader understand that the following paragraph will explain that Peter’s desire for Westernization influenced some of his military reforms. The paper then offers an example, article 15 of the Table of Ranks, to support this argument. The paragraph continues by rephrasing that quotation before explaining how it connects to Peter’s larger goal of Westernization. The paragraph concludes with a strong closing sentence.

The organization is also clear in between paragraphs. The paper moves logically from Peter’s reforms to Catherine’s. Moreover, it tries to both show the connections between the two monarchs’ reforms, such as in the third body paragraph, and highlight the disparities between the two, such as in the fourth and fifth body paragraphs.

The paper also uses evidence well. In paraphrasing or quoting the documents once or twice per paragraph, it gives enough evidence without letting the evidence overwhelm the reader. Also, the paper does not quote incessantly; it only quotes when it needs to. However, it still uses evidence by paraphrasing the documents. For example, the fourth body paragraph paraphrases a section in the Charter to the Towns: “The first guild, for instance, was for those with wealth between ten thousand and fifty thousand rubles, whereas members of the third guild possessed between one thousand and five thousand rubles.” Instead of quoting, the author paraphrases here to draw attention to the evidence it needs.

Finally, the paper is free of grammatical errors, and the language is (for the most part) concise and clear. The paper meets the qualifications for an A grade which Professor Qualls has expressed.

Structure and writing

I read the intro to Davis’ article, “Religious Riot in Sixteenth Century France” to explore how  she went about setting up and introducing her research. She began by quoting two religious figures in the 1560s to provide an example for her analysis to follow. It’s important that she uses primary sources right away, and this is only one style of beginning an analytical research article. In her introduction she lays out the focus of her paper, religious riots in 16th century France, their significance and who participated in them. She provides a comparison to other rioters at the time, such as food riots. In differentiating religious riots, she gives a preliminary definition of the issue and explores the characteristics of mob violence further. She creates her own “niche” by saying that although much research has paid attention to “….” and a lot of study has been done on these sorts of riots and mob violence, religious riots havent received much “analytical attention”. So she introduces and contextualizes the issue she will explore later on in the paper. Still within the introduction she explores the problem of religious rioting, what other scholars have missed, and she asks a number of questions and then in the next paragraph explains the structure of her paper and her methods in going about answering these questions. She uses short quotes often, but integrates them well into her narrative and uses long explicatory footnotes.



Always a researcher, never a writer

First Tuchman, now Marius. This is the second time I’ve read an academic horror story in which someone becomes so wrapped up in research that s/he never gets around to writing. Tuchman recalls “a lady professor” in her seventies who had been doing research all her life. Marius, too, writes of Frederick Jackson Turner, who was only able to write one of the many books he had promised to publishers (A Short Guide to Writing About History, 88-89). These individuals – both the lady professor and Turner – knew so much, but were they ever able to share even a fraction of their knowledge with the world? Tuchman is right when she says “Research is endlessly seductive; writing is hard work” (Practicing History,21).

The black hole of death. Stop researching or you might end up on an episode of Hoarders. From

The black hole of death. Stop researching or you might end up on an episode of Hoarders. From

I was somewhat afraid of following in their footsteps and becoming a perpetual researcher while doing our archive assignment. As I explored the collection of General James Gordon Steese – Dickinson College Class of 1902, Army engineer, WWI witness, Panama Canal builder, Alaska Road Commissioner, Prospector of South American oil, and all around adventurer and world traveler – I was amazed at what I found. The artifacts included a flirty goodbye letter from 1910 made with magazine scraps; an elaborate certificate signed by Presidents Roosevelt and Taft; and photographs of men wrangling alligators and sea lions, among other items. Still, with twelve plus boxes of documents pertaining to some of the most important events of the first half of the twentieth century in front of me, it wasn’t too hard to see how the situation could turn from an interesting class assignment into a black hole of death. Once I’d rummaged around a bit and picked four fairly interesting pieces (but oh, there were so many!), I got out of there, knowing that my incredible ability to get distracted would get me nowhere.

I also found that recording not just my findings, but also my thoughts and questions as I went was really helpful both to guide my research and simplify the end task. I’ve realized that it’s important to be conscientious of your thought and not let yourself slip into that sort of absentmindedness that comes with casual reading. Thoughts are fleeting, tie them down to a piece of paper so that they don’t disappear into your nether regions of your brain again! Writing as I went made putting the whole piece together at the end that much easier. Writing is a process. This is something that we’re constantly told but, at least for me, is a lesson I’ve had to learn the hard way and am only now beginning to understand and apply. So here’s to knowing when to stop researching and start writing, to the writing process, and to our ability to change, learn, and grow from it!

Writing History

In chapter 3 of Marius’ book, he writes about certain skills every writer should have. He discusses the importance of reading over the question giving when writing an essay, or on the syllabus, because in that prompt or description of the paper is what the professor or teacher is truly looking to find. Finding a concrete, specific topic is discussed, as many students today get caught up in topics which are too broad for a paper. Marius also discusses how students, when writing, need to exercise extreme caution with a source because a lot of the sources used, are not necessarily well checked sources. The example given is Wikipedia, which as most students know can be edited, or added onto by anyone at all. Therefore, although it is a good place because it has information on everything, do not rely on it as a source of evidence in a paper. Finally, Marius discusses the use of primary and secondary sources and the importance of making a pathway of all sources used, so that when the bibliography is made, one can trace their steps back to the beginning where they got the information and create a working bibliography or works cited page.

In  Natalie Zemon Davis, “The Rites of Violence: Religious Riot in Sixteenth-Century France”, the violence between the Catholics and the Protestans is discussed. It is stated that “Our sources will be contemporary Catholic and Protestant accounts of religious disturbance , from which we will do our best to sort out utter fabrication from likely fact.” (Davis pg. 55) The statement made above is very important for writers of history because as we have discussed in class, history cannot be written without bias, although every writer must do their best to eliminate their bias and write from an objective point of view. This is essentially what Davis is trying to do; to present the facts about the violence took place in the sixteenth century between the Protestants and the Catholics, without having emotions.