Analyse: This step seems simple to teachers but is often a challenge for students. Source analysis in Step 3 requires students to ask these questions of a source:
- What is the 'core' content' that needs to be addressed to respond to the inquiry question/s?
- Does the source's content relate substantially to the 'core content' of the question/s?
- Is this source USEFUL to the historical inquiry?
A source may be determined as useful because it:
- provides an interesting perspective on the past
- shows us the values and motivations of people in a particular era
- contains historical detail such as dates
- helps us to empathise with people's experiences in the past OR
- due to the quantity of relevant, historical information.
- Does the source confirm historical arguments or opinions that you previously held? Does the source challenge you to reformulate your arguments or opinions?
It is at this step that students begin to use source material to develop an informed argument or opinion that addresses the historical inquiry question/s.
Evaluate: students determine the reliability of each of the sources to be used in answering the question/s. For each source students need to ask, "Is this source to be believed"
Students must take into account the origin, values, purpose and context of the source in order to answer the question/s.
Primary sources and secondary sources can both be considered reliable sources of information. A primary source may be reliable because it is produced by a credible witness to an historical event. A secondary source may be reliable because it is produced by an expert historian, or a trustworthy organisation, who has used quality primary materials to produce the source.
However, sources used will often have issues of reliability, such as bias within accounts of a witness or author. Such sources can still be utilised as long as students include reflections on the sources' bias, noting the way in which bias places limitations on the use of the sources as evidence.