1. Identify and summarise the source. 2. Consider the particular type of source.

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1. Identify and summarise the source.
2. Consider the particular type of source.
3. Put your source in context. This means asking three questions, each of which will mean drawing upon your wider reading:
What do we need to know about the broader picture to make sense of this source? The author, the environment (political, social, cultural backdrop), the time and the key issues each have their own history. What would we struggle not knowing? These are the sorts of things you often find mentioned in a brief preface to a source extract in anthologies.
What does this source tell us about the broader picture? We piece together our wider understanding one source at a time. So what does this source add, that we might not be aware of or have evidence for otherwise.
How does this source compare to others? It’s not just secondary sources that give us our wider understanding, but other primary sources too. How might other primary sources you know of answer questions raised by this one, show a different side of the same happenings, corroborate or call into question what we see here?
4. Consider the limitations of the source. Rarely will the source be an outright forgery, but you should still question the validity, reliability and representativeness of the source. What can’t it tell you? This is where questions of bias might be brought in. However, I would advise against using the term bias. Labelling a source as biased may not be wrong but it is redundant, since every source is biased in some way. Saying so can often mask the need to ask how. Better to identify the perspective from which events are described.
5. Answer the question: How useful is this source to historians? Although it might be implicit, this is always ultimately the question. Depending on the particular assignment, we might add: in relation to our particular issue. An easy mistake would be to offer some general thoughts on the source, perhaps doing all of the above, but not to really answer this question.

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