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How should I evaluate a source?

Source evaluation is one of the most daunting aspects of History, almost everyone has struggled with it at one time or another! Here are a list of questions you can ask when analysing a source. 

1. What? 

This is the easiest of the points yet is it so often forgotten about! Simply what is the source saying? What is in the source? If it is an image, what is in the image? What are the opinions/arguments that the source is presenting? This is the central content of the source. 

2. When? 

When was the source produced? Does this affect what it is saying and the arguments it presents? 

3. Why? 

Why was the source produced? This is often overlooked as well, but take some time to reflect on what the purpose of the source was during this time period. 

4. Conclusions? 

The next step is to evaluate why the source is saying what it is saying. This step is kind of a combination of the first three, but take a look at the what, when and why, and start to make conclusions about why the source is saying what it is saying. This is perhaps the largest chunk of the source analysis, but if you break down the first three questions then it becomes a lot easier!

5. What is the signifiance? 

Why does the source have historical significance? The examiner would have selected it for a particular reason, so it is crucial to identify what the significance of the source is in the context of the time period that you are studying. 

After these steps you should have systematically looked at all the relevant aspects of a source! Some sources will differ in terms of what aspect will be more important, for example there might be more to say about a source's purpose as opposed to when the source was made, but in all there should be something to say for all the sections. 

Alice C. GCSE English Literature tutor, A Level English Literature tu...

1 year ago

Answered by Alice, an A Level History tutor with MyTutor


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