Source Research

Machu Picchu, Peru.
"Machu Picchu, Peru" by Pedro Szekely. Used under CC BY-SA 2.0. Source:,_Peru.jpg

Once you know what three sub-questions you need to answer, start finding primary and secondary sources that provide quotes that will help you answer these questions.


When finding good sources, you will need to do wide reading. Take the time to look through any of the following in order to collect a wide range of primary and secondary sources:

  •  textbooks
  • academic journals

  • museum artefacts

  • educational websites

  • books written by experts

  • accounts written by eye-witnesses


Try not to waste time reading things that are not going to help you. A good idea is to skim through an article or book chapter first to work out whether it is useful. Do not spend all your time reading entire books when only a chapter or two may be useful.

Need help finding sources?

History Skills provides a range of links to help you find quality primary and secondary sources in this section of the website.

Gathering quotes

Once you have established that a source is useful, read it carefully and take notes as you read. This means that you write down:

  • the full bibliographical details of the source

  • the page numbers where you find your quotes and;

  • mark down which sub-question the quote helps you answer.


If you find that you cannot think of any sub-question it helps answer, then the quote probably is not useful for you essay. Do not waste your time on quotes that are not going to help you.


Finding sources and recording quotes does require time and effort, but if it is done well, it will save you wasting a lot of time when you come to write your essay!


Source analysis and evaluation

Once you have taken information from a source, you need to take some time to analyse and evaluate the source. Use as many of the skills to provide a critical summary of why this source is useful to your research. If you do this well during your research, you can incorporate your findings into your written essay.


Example of a source collection, analysis and evaluation:

Your research journal

A research journal will be given to you to record this information. It is in your best interests to write as much as possible into the journal so that your teacher can see where your information is from. An empty research journal indicates laziness and may be a warning sign of plagiarism! Since one third of your marks come from your research, keeping a record of your quotes helps your teacher to give you the best marks. Use your research journal to store all of your quotes and information.

Need a digital Research Journal?

History Skills Online has a ready-to-use Research Journal that follows these 9 steps and provides links back to the website to help you at each stage of your research. You can grab it here.

Previous Step: Sub-Questions

Next Step: Organise Quotes