Critical Use of Sources

Michelangelo. (c. 1540). 'The Last Judgement', Sistine Chapel, Rome.
"Last Judgement (Michelangelo)", Sistine Chapel. Public Domain. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Last_Judgement_(Michelangelo).jpg

One of the most important aspects of studying history is the need to engage with historical sources. Reading and understanding sources requires a specific set of critical thinking skills that will allow you to analyse and evaluate them. Each skill is vitally important to doing well in the subject.

 

 

What is 'source criticism'?


Source criticism is a set of skills that allows you to think carefully about the nature of historical sources. Rather than simply accepting what sources say, these skills help you to develop a healthy skepticism about the reasons a source was made and whether you can trust it.

 

 

There are two types of source criticism skills you can use: analysis skills and evaluation skills.

 

In order to help you understand how each of these skills relate to each other, they are organised in a table below.

 

To learn more about each of the skills, click on the hyperlinks in the tables to see more detailed explanations and examples.

Analysis  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?

Evaluation

 

Usefulness

 

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

 

Reliability

 

How trustworthy is the source?


Looking for revision material for source criticism?


Download a copy of the source criticism table for free in the Store.

Also, purchase a ready-to-use source criticism worksheet for use with any primary or secondary source.

Source Criticism Worksheet
A ready-to-use table for source analysis and evaluation. There are prompts for each criticism skill with space for individual answers, as well as hyperlinks to additional information for further help with each skill. (Microsoft Word format) ... (Read More)
$2.50

Looking for the old version of this page?


 

The old Source Criticism page can still be found here.

Additional Resources


IOP CAM - A Handy Acronym for Source Analysis

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Constructive (Source) Criticism

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