Module 7 Lab: Intro to Close Reading

Learning Objectives:

  • Students will learn close reading analysis skills.
  • Students will apply their close reading skills to analyze a translated primary source text illustrating Ancient Greek literature, philosophy, and poetry.
  • Students will develop a clear thesis statement informed by the assigned readings and close reading of a primary source text. 


The intention of this Lab is to introduce you to close reading analysis of primary source texts and developing thesis statements for historical arguments or interpretations. Close reading is a method of analysis scholars (historians, literary scholars, philosophers, etc.) use to extract meaning from textual sources by examining in great detail the language used in the text, the intention behind its creation, and how readers may have perceived the text. 

Most history books and articles use this form of analysis in some way to inform their claims and interpretations of the past, often because many historians rely on textual sources (literature, newspaper articles, diaries, letters, etc.) for their research. Close reading is one way that historians can make the most out of scarce sources: if not much survives from a particular writer (e.g., Sappho of Lesbos) or group of people (e.g., farmers), close reading provides as much detail and analysis as possible to understand what is there. 

Close reading is done with an end goal of presenting an historical argument or interpretation. One key part of any historical argument or interpretation is a clear and strong thesis statement. A thesis for a close reading in history is an assertion or interpretive claim about how the meaning and function of the primary source shapes our understanding of a historical moment. Good thesis statements come after careful analysis of primary sources — you want your research and analysis to guide the argument you make. 


  • Read the assigned readings for Module 7
  • Read “Close Reading,” in Introduction to Text Analysis: A Coursebook by Brandon Walsh and Sarah Horowitz. Pay close attention to the examples given to help clarify your understanding of what is involved in close reading.

Write-Up (due 10/11 at 11pm):

Pick one primary source text to analyze:

Read your selection carefully and answer the questions below about the primary source text you chose. Include evidence from the text (aka, quotations of specific words and phrases) for each answer, and explain your analysis of the quotation and how it supports your answer. Use this Module’s assigned readings to inform your answers. 

Answer the following questions:

Include parenthetical citations in your answers when you paraphrase or quote ideas and information from the readings or the primary source text. Cite the primary source texts as: (author name). Cite the assigned readings as: (“Title of Article”)

  • What do you know about the author? How might his or her beliefs and background have affected the writing of and views in this document?
  • Who was the intended audience? Was this text meant for one person’s eyes or for the public? How does that affect the nature of the text?
  • Is it prescriptive (telling you what people thought should happen) or descriptive (telling you what people thought did happen)?
  • Does it tell you about the beliefs/actions of the elite, or of “ordinary” people? From whose perspective?
  • What are the limitations of this type of text? What historical perspectives are left out of this text?

Write a Thesis Statement:

Based on your answers to the questions above and the Module’s assigned readings, write a solid thesis statement about the primary source text and include it at the end of the write-up.