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Common Core Standards: ELA - Literacy See All Teacher Resources

Grade 9-10

Reading RH.9-10.9

RH.9-10.9. Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.

The Walking Dead

What’s in a name? A cheeseburger by any other name would still clog your arteries. Fact. Even if you claim to be a vegetarian, you must have had a cheeseburger at some point in your life, or you sneak one every once and a while when you think no one is looking. When you’re looking for a place to eat, and no one wants to take responsibility and decide where to go, everyone will inevitably start weighing the options of the various burgermeisters. Do you head to the BK lounge for a whopping sandwich, or do you want to indulge in the delectable awesomeness that Five Guys offers (if you don’t have one near you, drive until you find one)? All of these respectable businesses cook up comparable menus, but they all contrast when it comes to the main event, the burger and fries. Many things follow suit, like say two documents written on the same topic (BOOM! I know you didn’t guess that one). Whether it’s a Whopper or a Big Mac, it’s all about the burger. Whether it’s a primary or secondary source, they can discuss the same subject, but may have significant differences. Here we go…



Okay, so you have one doc about the famous hauntings in St. Augustine (I’m not talking sweet like Swayze in Ghost, these are wicked vengeful guys), and another document on… the famous hauntings in St. Augustine. Were you paying attention? It’s the same topic, Ace, but the comparison comes in the treatment of the topic by two different sources. Did one reading bring the topic flowers and take her out to a nice dinner while the other honked at her from the car and then took her to a greasy burger joint? When reading multiple sources on a subject, you need to be aware of how each source treats the subject and ultimately come to your own conclusions after thorough research and analysis. Here’s what you need to uncover:

1. If it is a primary or secondary source, meaning was it written during the time period by someone with firsthand knowledge, or was it written after the time period as a secondhand summary or analysis of the event?

2. What the topic of the two passages actually is. Are these texts truly dealing with the same subject, or are the two subjects only loosely related?

3. How the discussions between the two differ. Time to compare and contrast. Do they have the same take on the topic or are they dissimilar? This is most obvious when looking at a piece arguing for an important topic, like the ability to order from the kid’s menu no matter your age, or arguing against it. This can be difficult, however, when you have more than two documents on the same topic. In that case, it may take a lot of detailed analysis to cover all the points.


The following questions must be completed in relation to documents of your choice. Complete the following steps and then answer the questions regarding all documents.


  • Choose a topic relating to American History or Government. Write the topic down; this should be a detailed topic. For example, Women’s Suffrage would be insufficient, while Campaigns and actions leading to ratification of Women’s Rights in the 1920’s, would be an acceptable topic. Submit for approval to your teacher. 
  • Gather at least three documents relating to the topic of choice. At least one document must be a printed source. At least once document must be a primary source. Write out the citation for the entire document in APA or MLA format. MAKE SURE THEY ARE ON THE SAME TOPIC!! 
  • Read and annotate each source, highlighting and noting points that are similar or different between the documents.
  • Answer the following questions.


1. For each document in turn, write a brief summary of the central claim and supporting details. Each document should render at least one paragraph; label each summary as document one, document two, etc… [Easy]

2. Write an outline of the key points per document (limit 10 points for longer pieces) and underneath each outline, write a brief explanation of the author’s tone towards the subject. Refer back to the standard description for some guiding questions if you get stuck. [Medium]

3. Regarding the primary versus secondary sources: Explain the differences between two of these sources in regards to language, presentation of ideas, and referenced material. How do the elements of the primary source enhance or emphasize the points in the text? Does the secondary source meet the same level of sophistication or exceed it? Why do you think the writings differ so little/so much? [Medium]

4. Identify the thesis of each document, and explain how these essential claims or central ideas compare between all documents. Are there any consistencies or discrepancies between the writings? This response should be at least one paragraph in length. [Hard] 

5. Write an additional source or mock argument in response to one document of your choice. This should be a point-for-point contrast and should mirror the length. Avoid simple regurgitation of ideas in opposite language. [Hard]

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