Complete an analytical essay on Common Sense. In the essay, students need to introduce the author, the author’s intent, the author’s arguments for American independence and determine any impacts the source may have had in its time. Students may also include topics they found interesting or confusing. The essay needs to be written professionally and should not use colloquial phrases or first-person. 


The essay must include:

  1. A Cover Page (does not count towards page count).
  2. Provide full bibliographical reference of the book at the beginning of the essay. This is standard practice when discussing a single source in an essay.
  3. An introduction to the time period being studied.
  4. Introduce the book title, author, and author’s intent.
  5. Discuss your interpretation of the book. Did you like the book? Why or why not?

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Some things to take into consideration when writing a single-source analytical essay: 

  1. Research the author and learn everything you can about their background and potential bias. Even if a primary source was not written with an agenda in mind, an author’s upbringing, education, social status, religion, and other biographical details can all influence the ideas being presented in the source. For example, knowing that an author was exceptionally wealthy may undermine the argument put forth in a treatise dismissing the plight of the poor. By learning everything you can about the author, you can identify potential biases.
  2. Consider the author’s relationship to the material. For example, a letter or article that is describing the details of a battle is considered much more reliable if it was written by a person who saw the events firsthand. A letter or article describing something that someone else related may not be as reliable. An exception may be made for newspaper articles that traditionally rely on interviews with witnesses to produce the report.
  3. Learn the intended audience for the piece. A private journal entry may be considered more reliable in some cases because the author was only writing for himself and had no reason to shape the information to elicit a certain response. An article that was written for a special interest group may be considered less reliable since it might be written to appeal to the biases of that group. Knowing the audience can help you determine any bias or ulterior motive in the source material.
  4. Place the source in historical context. A letter that argues for the legalization of same-sex marriage may not be considered shocking if it was written in 2014. However, that same letter written in 1814 would be considered radical in almost any society. You must put the source in the context of historical events and cultural mores. In other words, describe the time period in which the source was written. What was happening? Who was involved? Etc. You should also identify any events that might have influenced the writing of the material, such as an essay written in response to economic changes after a war. In addition, identify the influence that the source material had if any.
  5. Analyze the intent of the material. Determine if the source was written to simply provide a record of events, such as a newspaper article or historical account, or whether it was written to interpret or analyze events to put forth an argument. If the author intended to advance an argument with the material, that will change the way you evaluate the source, including whether the argument was successful and what biases are contained in it.
  6. Create a thesis statement for your analysis. Once you have all the information you can gather about your primary source, you must create a strong statement that unifies your analysis. For example, your thesis may be that the writing caused a great deal of social upset at the time it was published but that it failed to have any lasting historical value. Your thesis will be determined by your research.

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