In this course, we have drawn from creation stories, religious texts, philosophical treatises, and laws to explore the natural, political, social, and cultural realms of the human experience. Think about the fundamental questions that people across time and place have asked, and how the primary sources we have read answered those questions.
PROMPT: Compare and contrast how two societies we have studied in this course addressed a fundamental question of human existence. Be sure to clearly identify the fundamental question you will address and draw from relevant primary sources assigned in Milestone Documents to analyze how your 2 selected societies have answered your fundamental question.
Step 1: Identify the fundamental question you will explore. The question should be universally applicable and answerable using information from the primary sources in Milestone Documents and the modules. Here are some examples. You may pick one for your essay or develop your own.
• How did the world come into being?
• Why is the world the way that it is?
• What is the good life?
• What happens after we die?
• Are humans innately good or evil? Or does society shape human character?
• What is the basis of political authority?
• What is the best form of government?
• What is justice?
Step 2: Select 2 societies from the list below to compare and contrast. Be sure there is enough information from the sources in Milestone Documents and the modules for the 2 societies you choose to answer your fundamental question.
Step 3: Select representative primary sources from the assigned documents in Milestone Documents for your 2 selected societies. These primary sources must have information that addresses your fundamental question. You must have at least 1 primary source for each society, for a minimum of 2 primary sources from Milestone Documents.
Step 4: Analyze how your representative primary sources address your fundamental question. Do not simply summarize the documents. Analyzing requires you to explain how a specific part of the document addresses your fundamental question and what that reveals about the society that produced that document. See the guides to writing an essay posted in this section for more information and examples.
Step 5: Compare how your representative primary sources address your fundamental question. Make explicit the similarities and differences (make sure there is a basis for the differences, e.g., differences in political authority in Mesopotamian/Chinese law v. Roman law). Provide an explanation for those similarities and differences. For example, think about the common issues all humans confront, and why people may address them in similar ways in certain circumstances and in different ways in other circumstances.
Step 6: Support your points with specific examples from the primary sources. It’s better to paraphrase; assessment will be based only on what you write in your own words. If you quote from a source, use parenthetical citation. Example: “Quote” (“Source Title”). If there is a section number in the source, please include it after the source title.
The essay must have an introduction with a thesis statement that answers the prompt, body paragraphs that support the thesis with specific and relevant examples from the readings, and a conclusion that summarizes the significance of your fundamental question. Do not use outside sources.