How do I analyse a source?

By exploring the following areas of the source, you can follow a general structure that can be applied to all source analysis. The depth of analysis depends on how much there is to say about a source, but in exams this is usually reflected by the marks allocated to the question. 

Just remember COPS!

1) Content - What is the source and what information or argument does it give? If the source is a photo/painting/cartoon, what is it of? Describe the foreground, people, colours, speech etc. If the source is a newspaper, what is the story being told? This point is the descriptive opening and shouldn't take too long.

2) Origin - Authorship and dates. Who wrote the source: what relevance do they have to the source (who are they, do they have a major role in the movement/regime/event in history that you are studying)? When was it published: key dates/events before that might impact the source or that the source might influence in the future (primary sources)? Does the publication date effect its viewpoint - schools of thought etc (secondary sources)

3) Purpose - why was this source produced? What does it aim to do? Is it a method of propaganda that aims to persuade? Perhaps it is an educational tool to inform?

4) Significance - concluding part. Based on the above, how useful is this source? Is it reliable, given its origin and purpose? Does it contain all the viewpoints or has it skipped over vital pieces of information? Here you can use your own knowledge that is maybe left out of the source which might make you question the source's authenticity.


Kieran N. GCSE Maths tutor, GCSE History tutor, GCSE Spanish tutor

7 months ago

Answered by Kieran, a GCSE History tutor with MyTutor

Still stuck? Get one-to-one help from a personally interviewed subject specialist


Lucia R. A Level Religious Studies tutor, GCSE Religious Studies tuto...
View profile
£18 /hr

Lucia R.

Degree: Theology (Bachelors) - Exeter University

Subjects offered: History, Religious Studies+ 2 more

Religious Studies
Philosophy and Ethics
-Personal Statements-

“PERSONAL PROFILE  Hi Tutorweb students and parents!  My name is Lucia Roe and I'm currently at the University of Exeter studying BA Theology. I've just finished my second year and I'm happy to say that this year I achieved a2:1. Whil...”

MyTutor guarantee

PremiumMatthew L. 11 Plus Maths tutor, GCSE Maths tutor, 13 plus  Maths tuto...
View profile
£18 /hr

Matthew L.

Degree: Philosophy, Politics and Economics (Bachelors) - Oxford, The Queen's College University

Subjects offered: History, Maths+ 4 more

Extended Project Qualification
.TSA. Oxford.
-Personal Statements-

“Hello! I am a recent graduate from The Queen’s College, University of Oxford, where I studied Philosophy, Politics and Economic”

Alexandra F. GCSE English Language tutor, Mentoring English Language ...
View profile
£20 /hr

Alexandra F.

Degree: English (Bachelors) - Exeter University

Subjects offered: History, English Literature+ 1 more

English Literature
English Language

“Revision for exams 2016 Exam season is upon us! Do you need help with exam technique? Do you need to go through the marking criteria? Or perhaps you would like mock exams marked and critiqued? I can help! About Alexandra I am an Eng...”

About the author

Kieran N. GCSE Maths tutor, GCSE History tutor, GCSE Spanish tutor
View profile

Kieran N.

Currently unavailable: for regular students

Degree: Spanish and History (Bachelors) - Southampton University

Subjects offered: History, Maths


“About Me I am a first year student at the University of Southampton, studying Spanish and History. Although I eventually chose to follow humanities, I was always split as to what I prefered - at A Level I was so unsure I ended up taki...”

MyTutor guarantee

You may also like...

Posts by Kieran

Factorise and solve x^2 - 8x + 15 = 0

How do I analyse a source?

What is the subjunctive and when should it be used?

Other GCSE History questions

What is the difference between a primary and a secondary effect of a natural disaster?

How do I tackle a source based paper?

What are the steps in answering a source based question?

How can I improve my answers for source-based questions?

View GCSE History tutors


We use cookies to improve our service. By continuing to use this website, we'll assume that you're OK with this. Dismiss