How to read a political Cartoon Assignment
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How to read a political Cartoon
Guidelines: For the Unit 4 Exam, download the file attached. The file includes a set of documents and images, as well as five sections of questions related to the documents, images, and time period being covered in class. For your paper, answer all of the questions in each section. The total word count for all five sections together must be more than 1200 words in length. Direct quotes do not count toward the required word count.
2) Research and Citations: you may use your textbook, the videos, or other outside sources. In the case of the textbook and the videos, only direct quotes need to be cited, requiring only the author’s last name in parentheses. Outside sources (books, websites, etc.) may also be used, but in this case all information must be cited and must be listed in a works cited (or bibliography) at the end of the essay. For your citations, please use MLA.
Assessment Assignment Helpful Hints
Abridged version of the Gram/Mehling document, compiled by Betty Sears Mehling
Before you begin, read the questions (prompt) first.
The questions tell you what sort of information you are expected to find in the written documents and cartoons/pictures.
Give yourself enough time to go over the document’s multiple times.
Really think about the document between each reading.
Visualize what the document says as you read.
Think about what you learned in class and from the book that goes with the document.
Give yourself enough time to answer the questions (prompts) thoroughly.
Questions will have multiple parts.
2 or 3 sentences will not suffice.
Read your answers thoroughly.
Make sure that your answers make sense.
Make sure that you have supported your assertions.
Make sure that you use college level grammar and punctuation.
How to read a political Cartoon:
The creator is trying to make an argument or a point about something.
Know the historical context of the cartoon.
What year was it made?
What part of the country?
What event it is talking about?
Use your textbook and lecture notes to remind yourself of what was happening at the time the cartoon was created. Your secondary sources will give you the information you need to understand and analyze the visuals.
What seems important about the cartoon?
Political cartoons make a strong, succinct statement.
Whatever your eyes are drawn to is probably the main point.
Political cartoonists are trying to get you to agree with them about something.
What has the cartoonists drawn?
Look for symbols.
What is in the cartoon?
Cartoonists will sometimes use a familiar object to represent something else.
Example: If you see an elephant stomping a donkey, the cartoonist could be suggesting that the Republicans will win the next election.
Look for exaggeration.
Sometimes cartoonists use real objects but draw them in an exaggerated way.
If the cartoonist draws the members of Congress as screaming babies, maybe the point is the childish, unprofessional behavior of the members of Congress.
Determine if the cartoon is serious or ironic.
Short phrases throughout the cartoon can give you hints.
Compare the words with the picture. Are we supposed to agree with what the words are saying or are we supposed to realize that the opposite is true?
Many of the same rules above apply for photographs.
What is going on in the photograph?
Why did the photographer think this was something worth photographing?
What does he/she seem to be saying about the event or person in the photo?
What does the picture focus on?
What was happening when this picture was taken?
You must know the historical context of what is depicted in the picture before you can analyze it.
Reading a Primary Document:
Read the essay prompt (question 1) first.
Questions are designed to make sure you understand the main points.
Who is the author?
What do you know from your textbook or lecture notes.
Knowing about the author can give you helpful insight.
Why is the author writing this document?
Is it in response to an important event?
Why is the author recording his or her thoughts in this document?
Who is the intended audience?
Is this document to be read by family? one person? or by anyone?
What argument is the author making?
Some documents are merely informative or descriptive.
Some are trying to persuade the reader to agree with the author about something.
What does the author want me to agree with or believe?
How is the author making the argument?
After each paragraph or few sentences, think about what you have just read and try to figure out how that portion of the document backs up the author’s argument.
What kinds of examples did the author give and why?
Is the author giving evidence to back up his or her thesis?
Are the sources credible?
Rephrase in your own words.
This is a good way to check your understanding of what you are reading.
How to answer the Assessment Assignment Questions
Understand what the question is asking you to do.
Many students lose points because they only answer part of the question (prompt) or they misunderstand the question and, therefore, do not give the correct answer.
The questions are not asking for a brief summary of the documents.
The questions are not asking for your general opinion on the documents.
Example: If a question asks you to compare and contrast the status of minorities in the United States in the nineteenth century based on two of the documents, it would be appropriate to compare and contrast how the two authors talk about African-Americans. It would not be appropriate to say which author you think is right or to talk about whether or not you think African-Americans have achieved equality in today’s society.
Prove your point.
Know when and how to give your opinion.
Most assessment questions ask you in include your opinion about something toward the end, but this does not mean that your entire answer is your opinion. Make sure you answer the specific questions being asked before you start giving your opinion.
Your opinion must be an informed opinion.
Don’t just tell the reader what your opinion is but how you came to hold that opinion.
Was it something from the documents, textbook, lecture notes, or other credible sources?