Your assignment is to learn as much as possible about the primary source you choose by examining the time and place that it came from, and determine where and how your document fits into the broader historical setting from which it came. Some questions you might ask of your source:
Here is Willliam and Mary University's excellent advice on how to analyze a primary source.
Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Browse this large website for a primary document for your analysis.
Sexuality in Medieval Europe (Karras): Browse here for more primary documents, and a timeline of the period.
As you browse, it is important you distinguish primary from secondary sources, particularly when using the websites above, which includes both types of sources.
Your task: Compare the following sources. Are they primary or secondary sources? How can you tell?
The first step in primary document analysis is often consulting background sources - encyclopedias or other reference books - to learn the basics of the text, author, time period or topic at hand.
1) Take 5 minutes to skim this primary document: Prologue to Wife of Bath's Tale, by Geoffrey Chaucer, in order to get a general sense of what it is about. Make a not of any key points / key terms that might help describe what the document is about.
2) Find an entry/article about either the author, Geoffrey Chaucer OR the poem in one of the background sources listed on the Background Sources tab to the right of this page. Preferred tool: Oxford Reference: History. The most helpful entries will come from historical rather than literary sources, though both may be useful.
3) Take two minutes to skim the encyclopedia entry/article you find. Talk to your neighbour briefly about some things you learned about either Chaucer or the Wife of Bath from the encyclopedia entry. How might this information help with a primary source analysis? What did you learn that would lead you to more information?
Other scholarly encyclopedias on medieval history
Oxford Dictionary of the Middle Ages (use the search box to the left of the screen, midway down).
Oxford Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages (use the search box to the left of the screen, midway down)
The next step in a primary document analysis is to find more detailed information that will help you better understand the context of your document, e.g., a book about the era/event/author or an article discussing the text. These will be important for your presentations.
Use the LibrarySearch discovery tool on the library homepage to find books and articles on your author/era/issue/region
Start with simple searches for your document analysis, for example:
Still looking for information? Use one of the journal article databases on the ARTICLES tab of this guide. Best bests for the medieval time period include: