Educator Resources

Analyze a Written Document

Download the illustrated PDF version. (PDF)


Meet the document.

  • Type (check all that apply):
    Letter Speech Patent Telegram Court document
    Chart Newspaper Advertisement Press Release Memorandum
    Report Email Identification document Presidential document
    Congressional document Other
  • Describe it as if you were explaining to someone who can’t see it.
    • Think about: Is it handwritten or typed? Is it all by the same person? Are there stamps or other marks? What else do you see on it?

Observe its parts.

  • Who wrote it?
  • Who read/received it?
  • When is it from?
  • Where is it from?

Try to make sense of it.

  • What is it talking about?
  • Write one sentence summarizing this document.
  • Why did the author write it? Quote evidence from the document that tells you this.
  • What was happening at the time in history this document was created?

Use it as historical evidence.

  • What did you find out from this document that you might not learn anywhere else?
  • What other documents or historical evidence are you going to use to help you understand this event or topic?

CC0 Materials created by the National Archives and Records Administration are in the public domain.