]This page is really to help with interpreting resources. It will support the externally assessed standard but during the year I would like to use the strategies as a device to help with understanding the storyline of the course and with your evaluation for the research assignment.

Make sure you show how the evidence is relevant to the question. It is not enough merely to repeat evidence.
  1. Clearly point out the main or key idea of the source. This should be done in your topic sentence. This could be done by paraphrasing the source in your own words
  2. Then add something else to show you are perceptive. This could be done by commenting on:
    • what is being said in the source
    • who the author of the source is and whether they are reliable or may be biased
    • whether the source is primary or secondary and the key issues around this
    • what the tone of the source is and what the reason is for the source being written.
  3. Read the date of the resource carefully – the date of publication does not necessarily mean that a resource was written in that year.
  4. Take note of whether the source is primary or secondary. Remember a source found in a secondary book can still be primary.
  5. Remember the pitfalls of secondary sources. Historians can provide different explanations of the same event as a result of different interpretations of primary resources.
  6. Remember the pitfalls of primary sources:
    • They can often be patchy and give an incomplete picture of events.
    • They may be biased and give a prejudiced or one-sided version of events.
    • They may be so influenced by personal feeling that they are difficult to generalise from.
  7. Remember all sources are useful, but not all are reliable.
  8. What is the intent of the source – is it a personal letter, a publication, a piece of propaganda or an official document?
  9. Reliability can be verified by checking other sources.
  10. Take note if the author of a source is a contemporary of the person or event being written about.
  11. Remember to refer to the source directly, e.g., H.G Robley, British officer's painting of a haka with muskets at Maketu, c.1865, ATL Timeframes.
  12. You must refer to all the sources if more than one is provided to comment on.
  13. Annotate the source on the examination paper – highlight key short quotes, identify people, underline the date, etc.
  14. Take your time to read the resources and plan your answer very carefully.
This represents a very sound approach and highlights the importance of being systematic in such activities. Rushing the resource questions is a common way for candidates to trip up, so stressing a careful method such as this is good advice.

This is excellent
Usefulness of Evidence:
Does it help?

Reliability of Evidence:
Can we trust it?

Do other sources confirm what is in the piece of evidence? (ie do they all tell a similar story?)
  • If not, why not?
Do other sources confirm what is in the piece of evidence? (ie do they all tell a similar story?)
  • If not, why not?
All sources/evidence are useful in some way, but is this one relevant to what you are researching/studying?
· Who created the source/evidence?
  • What is their point-of-view?
· Is it secondary or primary?
  • How does this affect the reliability?
· If primary, did they actually witness the event etc that is in the source?
  • If so, was it produced at the time, or many years later?
What exactly does this evidence/source tell us?

· Whose point of view is expressed? (Whose is missing?)
· What sort of language is being used?
· Is it FACT or OPINION?
· Study the background as well as the foreground.
· Is the image ‘natural’ or ‘posed’?
· What’s missing, maybe just outside the frame?

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· Why was the source created?
o To inform? To misinform? To persuade?
· For what audience was the source created?
o Eg a private document (diary, letter), a public speech etc?

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