Accuracy

Cyrus Cylinder. (c. 530 BC). British Museum, Item No. ME 90920.
Cyrus Cylinder. (c. 530 BC). British Museum, Item No. ME 90920. Source: www.britishmuseum.org

 

Accuracy is a source evaluation skill where you are asked to come to a conclusion about the correctness of the information provided by a source.

What is 'accuracy'?


Accuracy is the assessment that the information provided in a source is likely to be correct.

 

Since it is almost impossible to be 100% certain of a source’s accuracy, your answer needs to talk in terms of the ‘degree of potential accuracy’:

 

For example: Extremely - Very – Somewhat – Rarely – Not very

 

To assess the accuracy of a source, ask questions like:

  • Was the creator of the source present at the time of the event?

  • Is the information corroborated by other reliable sources?

  • Are there clues of bias in the source that may suggest it may be inaccurate?

How to I establish accuracy?


 The easiest way to argue in favour of a source being accurate is to show that the information provided by the source is corroborated by  a different source. 

 

However, there are other ways you can also argue that a source is potentially accurate:

  • The creator of the source was present at the time of the event.

  • The creator is writing to an audience who would have been fully aware of the information stated.
  • The source was written with the explicit purpose of recording unbiased information.
  • The information is corroborated by a separate, more reliable source.

  • There is no obvious bias in the source and that it tries to deal fairly with both perspectives on an event or person.

What if a source is inaccurate?


Finding out that a source has provided inaccurate information is not a bad thing for your assessment tasks. It shows a great deal of maturity if you can engage with inaccurate sources.

 

Being able to talk about why a source is inaccurate can actually earn you more marks, so don't shy away from discussing inaccuracies in sources.

How do I prove inaccuracy?


 The easiest way to argue in favour of a source being inaccurate is to show that the information provided by the source is contradicted by  a different source. 

 

However, there are other ways you can also argue that a source is potentially inaccurate:

For example


Demonstrating source accuracy in your writing:

 

Herodotus' account may sound fanciful but the archaeological findings have proved that he accurately described the weapons and armour of the Persian soldiers. 

 

There may be some doubt about the accuracy of the source because it is a modern website that lacks the author’s credentials and, as a result, it is difficult to know if the information provided is wholly correct.

 

This journal article appears to be very accurate because Anderson is a Cambridge military historian and has been studying Roman army tactics for thirty years.

 

Demonstrating source inaccuracy in your writing:

 

Hitler's claim that Jewish soldiers undermined the German army during the First World War is clearly contradicted by the large number of Jewish combatants that received military awards for bravery during the conflict