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Thread: Answering the Reliability/Usefulness Question

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    Answering the Reliability/Usefulness Question

    Although there is a thread which addresses the topic of reliability and usefulness, I have decided to post a specific guide on how to answer this question in the World War I section.

    As I am sure most if not all students of Modern History are well familiarised with, there are 7 concepts crucial to answering this question:

    Origin
    Motive
    Content
    Audience
    Perspective
    Reliability
    Usefulness

    Some of you might think, it seems easy when it's set out like this, but why does it remain a chore to answer the question? Well, it's not a problem if you do feel like this, because it can certainly be difficult to integrate all these 7 concepts into a coherent response. Not to mention it has to be done in time constraints! As a result, the aim of this guide is to make you feel more comfortable about answering this question.

    I will be putting forward an example in order to illustrate clearer what you need to do. It comes with images of the two sources, so just click on C and D in the question below to access them.

    How useful would Sources C and D be for a historian studying the strategies and tactics used to break the stalemate on the Western Front?

    First of all, remember that if a question just asks about how useful a source is, you will still have to discuss OMCAPRU. The question may in fact remind you of this, such as a following statement like “In your answer, consider the perspectives provided by the TWO sources and the reliability of each one.”

    Now you will need to think about how to approach the question. The order of how you address OMCAPRU is up to you, but ultimately you will have to open up your discussion of the two sources in the same way.

    Start with the sources in the sequence they are presented, so in this case, Source C. Make a judgement of how useful you think the source is and make sure to use modal terms. Writing something like “Source C would be very useful to an historian studying the strategies and tactics used to break the stalemate on the Western Front, but it has some limitations” would be adequate.

    After you have done this, you will have to quickly decide the order in which you do address OMCAPRU. By no means do you have to follow the approach I have provided, nor is it the most correct way of doing things. It's just to provide a framework of how you could answer the question. Make your own judgement in the end to whether or not it suits your style.

    1. Start by discussing the origin of the source, as this is the basis of the source

    >>> IF APPLICABLE, SAY WHAT THE SOURCE DOES NOT SHOW <<<
    e.g. Source C does not provide the historian with many specific facts about its origin, since even the date is omitted. But from the primitive gas masks, we could presume this was taken early in the war. The source does not indicate either who took the photograph, but it was likely for a newspaper in Britain, thus further decreasing its reliability and accounting for its idealised nature.

    2. Follow this up by discussing the content of the source. Make sure to be thorough and point how features in the source help an historian studying the specific topic (relevance of the content)

    >>> LINK OBSERVATIONS OF THE CONTENT WITH JUDGEMENTS OF RELIABILITY AND USEFULNESS<<<
    e.g. Source C depicts a British trench from which an offensive (with the purpose of breaking the stalemate) could be launched, however the trench is atypical with its cleanliness and neat construction, which shows how it could be a staged photograph. Indeed, the trench is very sterile with a lack of mud or bodies and the sandbags in fact look clean and undamaged. Additionally, the soldiers appear to be aware that the photograph is being taken, which adds more to the suspicion that it could be a staged photograph and not representative of a pre-battle scene. Nonetheless, there are still some indications of strategies and tactics used to break the stalemate on the Western Front, as there are weapons such as rifles and bayonets present. The masks also indicate there were gas attacks and the sandbags were there to shield shoulders from artillery.

    3. Audience and motive can come up next and the reason why I put them together is because they are very much connected to each other

    >>> OFTEN AUDIENCE AND MOTIVE AFFECT EACH OTHER <<<
    e.g. It cannot be discussed in certainty what the audience and the motive for the source were, however it was very likely that the audience were British civilians on the home front and the photographer was British as well. The motive of the photographer, as indicative from the more ideal nature of the photograph, probably concerned positively communicating the war to the British civilians and help maintain morale.

    4. Now comes perspective, (ethnicity, class, etc – look to the origin/motive to help inform this) and how it affects the reliability of the source

    >>> BE EXTREMELY CRITICAL ABOUT THE POSITION OF THE COMPOSER <<<
    e.g. The perspective of the source is quite narrow, being purely from a British perspective from the early period of the war. It does not show German perspective and cannot give any insight into how strategies and tactics developed throughout the later period. It is also restricted in that it only depicts a front line location and cannot give us information on other measures to break the stalemate on the home front, at sea or in other locations of the war.

    5. Make an overall judgement about the reliability of the source, which should’ve been accumulated by the reliability discussed while addressing origin, content, audience, motive and perspective

    >>> IN OTHER WORDS, THESE JUDGEMENTS SHOULD BE INTERWOVEN THROUGHOUT YOUR RESPONSE <<<
    e.g. The reliability of the source is deeply compromised by the reality that the source may have been staged for propaganda purposes and may therefore not be a true indication of the desperate measures which were undertaken to break the stalemate.

    6. Finish it off by reaffirming, as you did in your topic sentence, the usefulness of the source

    >>>EVEN IF THE SOURCE IS NOT RELIABLE, THIS DOES NOT MEAN IT CAN NO LONGER BE USEFUL AND VICE VERSA!
    e.g. Nonetheless, the source is still quite useful to a historian as it gives some idea to the strategies and tactics used to break the stalemate on the Western Front.

    Furthermore, if you happen to be the type to do practice questions, you can improve your responses by making sure you have answered the following questions:

    1. What does the source say?

    2. What doesn’t the source say? (This one is commonly neglected. It’s good to say if the source is lacking in some way when it comes to content)

    3. Why is it reliable or not reliable?

    4. What is the perspective?

    5. Have you quoted from the source if it is comprised of text?

    6. Have you stated if the composer experienced or did not experience the event, i.e. as an eye-witness?

    7. Have you briefly considered the biographical details of the composer?


    I am aware that the examples I provided only came from Source C and it is up to you if you want to think up some things from Source D. There is not much more for me to say now as you can apply the same process to addressing the second source. There is no need to complete the response with an introduction or conclusion, just get into the heart of assessing he sources.

    If you're wondering how much space you should be spending on this question, I believe you do not need more space than what is provided as that is the recommended space for the question. As each part has around 45 minutes allocated to answering this, in the World War I section you should be spending around 30 minutes for this extended response. This is flexible though and you should decide what is best for you as students can complete the multiple choice/short answer in various times.

    A few more things: there is no need to be flowery in your language. Always be succinct when you can. English might be a little different, but for Modern History, clarity and getting to the point is appreciated. World War I is often considered the section where you should be getting easy marks, so make sure you are able to get it down pat and you can with practice!

    If you end up getting a little all over the place when it comes to your structure in the exam, don't panic. As long as you link it back to the question and tie it together with judgements on reliability and usefulness, you should be able to keep yourself on track. But really, the more straightforward you are, the more you'll be able to maximise your marks. Yes, this does mean you are able to use the actual terms origin, motive, content, audience, perspective, reliability and usefulness in your response.

    Have any questions? Feel free to ask me on the thread!

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    Re: Answering the Reliability/Usefulness Question

    Great guide buriza - stickied.
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    Re: Answering the Reliability/Usefulness Question

    Absolutely fantastic - a massive bump!
    Quote Originally Posted by Carrotsticks View Post
    cos I'm thirsty af always
    Quote Originally Posted by teridax View Post
    +1 BoS went to a whole new level of stupid.

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    Re: Answering the Reliability/Usefulness Question

    Quote Originally Posted by hawkrider View Post
    I noticed that your structure for the source analysis is similar except that limitations is not included; rather it's slotted in your answer to the question, i.e. first sentence. Doesn't that compromise your investigation of the source if you don't highlight the flaws in the given extract throughout your discussion?
    I believe I have suggested that limitations should be discussed throughout my discussion, since I have pointed it out in almost all sections and have said in bold "judgements (of reliability) should be interwoven throughout your response." Maybe I didn't put it clearly enough, but by that I do mean you should be critical about the source throughout the entirety of the response.

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    Re: Answering the Reliability/Usefulness Question

    Quote Originally Posted by hawkrider View Post
    Perhaps I wasn't clear enough. Like, the way my modern history teacher taught me the way for source analysis was OMCLAPRU, but you suggested OMCAPRU in your original post. I guess there's no wrong way of going about this, but I'm a bit conflicted at the moment.
    You should do whatever suits you really. My OMCAPRU structure assumes that limitations are addressed in every area possible (particularly origin, motive, content and audience since these don't strictly address limitations like perspective, reliability and usefulness will inherently address). However, if you feel that doing limitations on its own benchmarks things better, I don't see why that would be a problem. If you can do that better than integrating limitations throughout your response, by all means go that way.

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    Re: Answering the Reliability/Usefulness Question

    Another massive bump!
    Quote Originally Posted by Carrotsticks View Post
    cos I'm thirsty af always
    Quote Originally Posted by teridax View Post
    +1 BoS went to a whole new level of stupid.

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    Re: Answering the Reliability/Usefulness Question

    This is absolutely brilliant and a life-saver! I have a Source Analysis test tomorrow morning and this is exactly what I need to reap in the extra marks I've been missing out on in my previous tests and exams.

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    Magniloquent Member mreditor16's Avatar
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    Re: Answering the Reliability/Usefulness Question

    Bump
    Quote Originally Posted by Carrotsticks View Post
    cos I'm thirsty af always
    Quote Originally Posted by teridax View Post
    +1 BoS went to a whole new level of stupid.

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