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ANALYZING A SOURCE
QUESTIONS TO ASK

  1. Document/Source

  2. Point of View
  3. Context

Task: Discovering the literal aspects of the document.

Questions

Who wrote the document?

What's the setting?
(time and place)

What is the author's qualifications, background, expertise?

Did the recorder have firsthand knowledge of the event? or, did the recorder report what others saw and heard?

Was the information recorded during the event, immediately after the event, or after some lapse of time?

What type of document is this? (poetry, diary, government document)

What is the document about?

Task: Determining the point of view of the source.

Questions

What is the social position of the author?

What religion, sex, and class is the author?

What is the intent of the author?

What perspective or point of view is presented?

What basic assumptions are implicit in the document?

Is the recorder trying to be neutral or is the recorder biased in some way?

How might the source be biased?

What "loaded" words are used? (clues to bias)

What is omitted?

Task: Understanding how the historical circumstances surrounding the source affected its creation and content.

Questions

Who is the intended audience?

What other events surrounded the source?

What was present in the predominant culture of the time?

How might the context affect the content of the source?

What should we consider to achieve historical empathy:

· To understand the event/person in context
· To understand that the past is different from the present.
· To question how much agency or power the historical figure had to act?
· To appreciate the eventual outcome of the situation was unknown to people at the time.

4. Significance

  5. Corroboration

 6. Interpretation

Task: Finding out what we can learn from this piece of evidence based on the previous steps.

Questions

Can we determine the literal aspects of the source?

What point of view does the source represent?

What can we learn from the point of view of the source?

What questions does the source answer about my topic or the leading question?

What answers are left unanswered?

How does the source contribute to an understanding of the issues or perspectives of the time?

Task: Comparing evidence to other sources.

Questions

Are there other sources to support this source?

Are there sources which disagree with this source? Why?

What's the same?

What's different?

What are the reasons for the similarities and differences?

Do sources acknowledge counter evidence?

Was anything omitted?

 Task: Constructing an explanation about history

Questions

Which sources will I choose to help me with my topic or leading question? Why?

How many pieces of evidence do I need?

How will I create an answer to my question that incorporates and accounts for conflicting evidence?

  Evaluating the End Product

Questions

Is my explanation convincing?

Does my explanation have support from several pieces of evidence?

Does my explanation reflect the multiple perspectives of the event or era?

Is my explanation clearly written or demonstrated in my final product?