Hickey's "12 Steps" to Analyzing Secondary Sources for Historiographic Purposes
In her book The Essential Historiography Reader (Boston: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2011), Caroline Hoefferle offers five "steps" to analyzing a secondary source from the perspective of historiography. I generally agree with her approach (although I would not place as much emphasis as does Hoefferle on "step five"). There are some other important steps that Hoefferle does not lay out, however, which I consider essential. And so, here is a "12 step" method, with seven steps added to Hoefferle's five.
Hoefferle’s Step 1: Examine author’s historical context
Hoefferle’s Step 2: Identify topic and what it tells us about the author/work
Hoefferle’s Step 3: Identify method and what it tells us about the author/work
Hoefferle’s Step 4: Identify and evaluate thesis and what it tells us about the author/work
Hoefferle’s Step 5: Identify author’s philosophy of history
Hickey’s STEP 6 (an elaboration on Hoefferle's 4th step): Assess the strengths and weaknesses of the argument—is it logically
supported by the evidence presented, and does it take other historians' findings into
consideration? To do that requires that you think about the next several steps:
Hickey’s STEP 7: Compare and contrast the questions that X asks to the questions other
historians have asked about the same topic.
Hickey’s STEP 8: Compare and contrast the sources and methods that X has used to the sources
and methods of other historians on the same topic.
Hickey’s STEP 9: Compare and contrast the argument (thesis) X makes to the arguments of
other historians on the same topic.
Hickey’s STEP 10: Using comparison-contrast, determine if there are different “schools” of
thought on the topic—if so, what are they?
Hickey’s STEP 11: Determine if the schools of thought have developed/changed/evolved over
Hickey’s STEP 12: if possible, relate the schools of thought back to their own historical contexts (step 1).