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Interpreting Sources


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#1 jp1999

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Posted 15 May 2012 - 07:43 PM

Heya, I have an upcoming exam on WW1 and I could do with a bit of advice on how to go further with interpreting sources. I already know the two basic Levels of interpretation: Level one being the obvious and level two being 'Whats in between the lines' Bu tI could really do with something that could help me get a higher grade (As I really want to show off to my teacher).

Any ideas would be awesome, and I thank you for any time you give to this.

~ James [jp1999]

#2 Mr. D. Bryant

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Posted 15 May 2012 - 10:27 PM

Welcome to the Forum.

Mr. Clare is brilliant at this sort of thing. In fact, there's a whole page on his website all about How to do source work. I suggest that you need to look at the section entitled 'Accuracy/Reliability' if you really want to improve your source work skills. Even better, his section on 'Haig and the Somme' looks at sources and discusses how to answer questions about them, this page for example.

Briefly, many students judge sources on their content: what is in the source. However, many people miss the information that comes with the source, its caption or provenance. Usually you will be told who wrote or created the source and when, sometimes with additional information. So, one example of a source might be:

The soldiers at the front need more rest. While in the trenches the water is over our knees most of the time. The war is going to last some time yet, and might be another twelve months before it is over. The war has only just begun and its going to be a war of exhaustion. After the regular armies have done their work it means that all the young lads at home being trained and disciplined and will take our place in the field. The sooner people understand this, the better, it will be for the nation.


If you were asked 'How reliable is this source for showing what soldiers thought about the war?' then you could make some good points such as: the soldiers didn't get enough rest; the trenches were very wet and uncomfortable; the writer seems to think that the war will last a long time; there will need to be a lot more soldiers trained to replace the soldiers sent out first; however, it seems to have been written in the early months of the war "The war has only just begun" so perhaps soldiers' ideas changed.

That would be a good answer. However, if you then had the following information with the source, you could make it even better.

Private H. F. Leppard of East Grinstead wrote a letter to his mother on 19th December, 1914. The letter was not censored.



So, something on the lines of; "This letter was written by an ordinary soldier in December 1914. This was in the early days of trench warfare, so perhaps he wasn't used to conditions yet. On the other hand, he seems to have a good idea about what the war would be like. The letter was not censored (no-one read it to check he wasn't giving any secrets away) so perhaps it gives a clearer idea of what he really thought about the war than a letter which was censored. Having said that, it's only one soldier's view from early in the war, so perhaps other soldiers felt differently, especially by 1917 or 1918."

I'm not saying the second answer is brilliant, but it does make some good use of the provenance of the source: who wrote/crated it? when? It hasn't really looked at why the source was created (its message) but you could consider that as well.

Hope that this helps. Best of luck with the exam.

#3 MrJohnDClare

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Posted 16 May 2012 - 12:17 AM

Different sourcework questions need different approaches - the question you described was simply the 'describe (inference)' one - there are other kinds (e.g. utility, comparison, validity etc.

There is a detailed analysis of answers to questions here.

Also it matters what Board you are doing - if you tell us we can give more specific help.

#4 jp1999

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Posted 22 May 2012 - 07:59 AM

It should be a KS3 National Exam, but modified by the school. So it has no official mark scheme.

Either way my exam is this afternoon. Thank you very much for the help you gave, Really appreciate it! :rolleyes:

#5 jp1999

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Posted 22 May 2012 - 07:34 PM

Test finished, I will be posting the level as soon as I get it. Once again your help is really appreciated

#6 MrJohnDClare

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Posted 23 May 2012 - 01:04 AM

We wish you well - yes, please do tell us how you got on.
And then quiz your teacher about why you got the marks you got!

#7 camibucchi

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 09:01 PM

im sorry to interupt this question but i urgently need help!!!!
i need to know the views of different people on the battle of the somme!!!!

#8 Mr. D. Bryant

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 09:41 PM

im sorry to interupt this question but i urgently need help!!!!
i need to know the views of different people on the battle of the somme!!!!


Welcome to the Forum.

I suggest you have a look at Mr. Clare's excellent website which has a section on Douglas Haig including a page on the Battle of the Somme. This will give you a good start. The Spartacus Schoolnet site is also good for quotes, this page for example. Then get back to us if you need more help.




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