IOP CAM - A Handy Acronym for Source Analysis

A handy acronym for teaching source analysis

Students frequently find that analysing and evaluating historical sources is challenging and, as a result, teachers are continually seeking new ways to help them succeed in this task. 

 

One of the ways that teachers prepare students for source criticism, particularly in exam settings, is to give them a simple acronym to check that they have demonstrated all the necessary analysis and evaluation skills.

 

To that end, I want to share with you a simple acronym that my students have found helpful: IOP CAM


The IOP CAM acronym


I have taught my students a simple, six-letter acronym to remember the six main source analysis skills.

 

Here is what each letter of the acronym means:

 

I - Information

O - Origin

P - Perspective

 

C - Context

A - Audience

M - Motive

However, knowing what each letter represents is only the first step. To make this work, the students also need to know what each skill means. Therefore, I take the time to teach the kinds of questions these skills ask:

 

Information

What is the explicit meaning of the source? (Comprehension)

What is the implicit meaning of the source? (Interpretation)

How does this source corroborate the information from another source?

How does this source contradict the information from another source?

 

Origin

 

Who created the source? 

What kind and type of source is it?

 

Perspective

 

From what point of view is the source created? 

 

Context

 

When was the source created?

What historical events happened at this time that are important to the creation of this source?

 

Audience

 

Who was the intended audience of the source?

 

Motive

 

For what purpose was this source made?

A source analysis using IOP CAM


The power of the acronym means that students can write an analysis of a historical source in a succinct and effective manner.

 

Here is an analysis of a source, colour-coded according to each of the six elements of the acronym.

 

Example analysis:

This letter was written by John Smith to record the events of the battle for his family at home. It is from the perspective of an Australian soldier who had just experienced the Gallipoli landing on the 25th April, 1915, and specifically mentions “running like hell” for survival.

Colour key:

Information

Origin

Perspective

Context

Audience

Motive


Using IOP CAM for source evaluation


Since source evaluation is based upon what students found in their analysis, the IOP CAM acronym is helpful for students to understand how to argue for a source's usefulness and reliability.

Rules for matching analysis to evaluation

  1. Use information (meaning, corroboration and/or contradiction) to justify usefulness.
  2. Use perspective (point of view), origin (creator, type of source), context (historical events of the time), audience (intended readers) and/or motive (reason the source was created) to justify reliability.

The following table diagrams this for students.

 

Use these analysis skills...

...to justify these evaluation skills.
Information

What is the explicit meaning of the source? (Comprehension)

What is the implicit meaning of the source? (Interpretation)

How does this source corroborate the information from another source?

How does this source contradict the information from another source?

Usefulness

How relevant is this source to the topic you are studying? 

 

Origin

 

Who created the source? 

What kind and type of source is it?

Reliability

 

How trustworthy is the source?

 

Perspective

 

From what point of view is the source created? 

 

Context

 

When was the source created?

What historical events happened at this time that are important to the creation of this source?

 

Audience

 

Who was the intended audience of the source?

 

Motive

 

For what purpose was this source made?

As is shown in the table above, the "I" in the acronym, which is for "Information", is the primary analysis skill used to justify a source's usefulnessSimilarly, the "OP CAM" is used to justify a source's reliability

 

To demonstrate how this works in assessment pieces, here are to example questions and answers that show how students can use the IOP CAM structure to evaluate sources.

 

Using "I" to evaluate usefulness

Example question about usefulness:

How useful is Source A regarding the experience of Australian troops at Gallipoli?

 

Example answer:

Source A is very useful in understanding the experiences of Australian troops at Gallipoli because it is a letter was written by John Smith, an Australian soldier, which describes his personal experience of the Gallipoli landing on the 25th April 1915. Specifically, it explains how he and his fellow soldiers were overcome by fear and confusion due to a lack of communication from their officers. This is evident when he says in the letter that “I forgot all of my training and I began running like hell for safety”. Therefore, Source A provides first-hand account of the Gallipoli landings and is extremely useful in understanding the experiences of Australian troops during the event.

  

Colour key:

Information

Origin

Perspective

Context

Audience

Motive


Using "OP CAM" to evaluate reliability

Example question about reliability:

How reliable is Source A regarding the experience of Australian troops at Gallipoli?

 

Example answer:

Source A is a very reliable source regarding the experience of Australian troops at Gallipoli because it is a letter was written by John Smith, an Australian soldier who was personally involved in the event itself. This source was written a few days after the Gallipoli landing on the 25th of April 1915 and was intended to be a recount of his experiences to be read by his family in Australia. As a result, it is likely to be a very trustworthy account of a soldier’s experience of the Gallipoli landing.

Colour key:

Information

Origin

Perspective

Context

Audience

Motive


A full source analysis and evaluation using IOP CAM

Once students understand the relationship between the analysis skills and the evaluation skills, they can then write a full analysis and evaluation of a historical source. This is particularly useful when they are undertaking the source investigation research task, where they need to critically engage with a source in a limited space. 

 

Example source analysis and evaluation:

The 1938 book Poisonous Mushroom by German Nazi Ernst Hiemer is very useful in answering the sub-question regarding how the Nazi party influenced young people in the 1930s. It provides a number of stories that explicitly describe the Jewish people as “dangerous” and “evil”, which feature German children as the main characters who are told this information. Since this source was created by Hiemer, who also worked as the chief editor for the Nazi propaganda newspaper, Der Stürmer, for German children to read, it is clear that its purpose was to spread anti-Semitic ideology amongst young people.

  

Colour key:

Information

Origin

Perspective

Context

Audience

Motive


Using IOP CAM in essay paragraphs


IOP CAM can also be used when writing body paragraphs for essays.

 

To do so, there are some simple rules to follow:

  

1. Each time you provide a quote, use IOP

Students need to know that they shouldn't be providing irrelevant quotes in their essays. Therefore, whenever a quote is provided, they need to explain why it is useful in helping prove the topic sentence of the paragraph. An effective way to do this is to always provide IOP before they use the quote.

 

Example topic sentence:

The religious buildings of ancient Thebes primarily served a political purpose for the kings of Egypt because they were used as a way of promoting pharaonic propaganda.

 

Example use of quote:

Evidence that inscriptions were for made for public consumption is shown by American Egyptologist, Jones, who states that “the political propaganda adorning the walls was meant to be read” (Jones, 1984, 45). 

 

Colour key:

Information

Origin

Perspective

Context

Audience

Motive


2. When you want to prove reliability, add CAM

After a student has encased a quote using IOP, they can then argue for a source's reliability by adding CAM afterwards.

 

Example use of IOP CAM around a quote:

A clear example of this can be seen on the walls of Amenhotep II’s memorial chapel, which makes a point of listing the nations that the pharaoh conquered and the kings he subdued (Appendix 2). Since the chapel was meant to be used for public ceremonies by the literate priestly class, it is a faithful record of political language in a religious structure.

 

Colour key:

Information

Origin

Perspective

Context

Audience

Motive


By following this structure, students can very easily demonstrate the use of a wide range of source analysis and evaluation skills in each paragraph they write.

 

Here is an example of a full body paragraph with every skill shown:

 

Example body paragraph:

Martin Luther King Jr. considered the 1963 Birmingham Campaign a necessity because of the harsh treatment of the African-American community. In mid-1962, King and other officials from the SCLC conceived ‘Project C’, which used the non-violent protest strategies of sit-ins, boycotts and daily marches, to draw public attention to the heavy-handed, and often violent, responses by the police. King’s justifications for this approach are explained in a telegram which he sent to President Kennedy in 1962, in which he stated that a “reign of terror is still alive in Birmingham Alabama [and] it is by far the worst big city in race relations in the United States” (King, 1962, 1). His reasons are explained further the following year, in a letter which King wrote while in jail in Birmingham following his arrest for taking part in the protests. In it, the civil rights leader argued that the protests were necessary since the city authorities left the African-American community with no alternative (King, 1963, 2). As this document was written with the expressed purpose of explaining the causes of the Birmingham Campaign, it is a particularly reliable record of King’s justifications for the event. As is clearly seen in these two sources, both written by King himself, he saw Project C as a vital step in gaining full rights for the citizens of the city. Therefore, King was convinced that the 1963 Birmingham Campaign was a direct result of the unjust treatment suffered by the African-Americans in Birmingham.

Colour key:

Information

Origin

Perspective

Context

Audience

Motive


Final thoughts


No acronym is the 'magic potion' for perfect grades. They are only a tool which can be used to help guide students. High-achieving students will get the most out of IOP CAM when they know when to use each skill most appropriately within the context of their assessment task.

 

However, I hope this scaffold will help both teachers and students feel more confident in mastering these skills.

 

Feel free to let me know what you think, or if you have a different acronym that you use.

Write a comment

Comments: 2
  • #1

    Clair Monnickendam (Saturday, 24 August 2019 18:50)

    Hi Michael, I am trialling this with my year 10 students who are just about to write their rationale and critical summary for their Independent Source Investigation. I am going to get them to colour code a sample paragraph so they can see how each element links to the acronym. I will let you know how it goes.

  • #2

    History Skills (Saturday, 24 August 2019 19:27)

    That is great to hear, Clair. I would love to know how it goes. I hope it helps!