1. Read the document carefully.
2. Think about the following questions. Some of these questions apply better to some documents than others. Some questions you may not be able to answer because of incomplete information (an obstacle historians regularly face), but you may be able to speculate based on your historical knowledge. Choose the questions (it could be several) that you think can best be used to analyze and reveal the meanings of your document. In your notes compose brief responses to these questions.
3. Now step back and make a more overall assessment that includes the basics of the document (including its style/tone), its strengths and weaknesses, the historical questions it might speak to, and some conclusions about the significance of the document?
Be a detective; consider this document a “clue.” Read between the lines. This is not meant to be a summary of the document. Try to say something meaningful about the document’s significance – how it adds to our understanding of this particular episode of American History.
Avoid presentism. You should not focus on making comparisons/contrasts to the present day. Your job is not to decide whether a document is good or bad, or whether the author was right or wrong; rather, you should be seeking to understand the document’s form, function, and impact.