How do I analyse a source?

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With source work, it is very important to read both the question and the source very carefully, and to make sure you answer the question!

The first step to an answer should be to read the source with the question in mind, and determine exactly what parts of the source are relevant, and what impression it gives you about the answer to the question. When you then write your answer, a good thing to keep in mind is to only use quotes from the source as direct evidence for your points. Don't lead with them, or use quotes that are too long, because this will come across as you regurgitating the source and will imply that you didn't fully understand it. It is better to be explicit about what point you're making, and show this by only referencing the parts of the source that are directly relevant to your argument. 

The way to get good marks in a source response is to think more deeply about what the source implies. For example, if a source describes a person's actions, think about what this implies their motivations were. Finally, a good think to think about is who created the source (e.g. who wrote/drew it) and what this suggests about the purpose of the source. A piece of propaganda might present a highly positive account of events, but this source should be seen as potentially unreliable given the purpose of propaganda to motivate and manipulate people. Therefore, you can make your points as normal, but then add at the end of your argument that these inferences might not be reliable. Alternatively, if the source was from a textbook, you could say that it is likely to be accurate.

These comments aren't necessary but if you can easily tell that the source has a purpose which is relevant to how reliable it is, it is worth mentioning it!

Sophie A.

About the author

is an online GCSE History tutor with MyTutor studying at Oxford, Balliol College University

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