How do I analyse a source?

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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

About the author

is an online GCSE History tutor with MyTutor studying at Southampton University

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