Types of Sources

Written Sources:

  • Identify the source writer and when it was written.
  • Ask yourself why the author wrote the document, book etc?  Did the author have a special interest in the subject in the written source?  Is the author a member of a political party, cultural movement, army etc?
  • Find out the origins of the document: book, official records, private records, newspaper accounts, transcripts from interviews etc. In the case of a newspaper source, ask yourself if that particular newspaper is supportive of a particular political party or cause.
  • Check the date of the document.  This will allow you to place it in its proper historical context.
  • Once you have identified the author and the date you must now study the content of the written source.  Ask yourself is the content factual or opinionated?  Does the source give a straightforward account of what happened or is it based on the opinion of the author?  Written sources will usually contain a mixture of opinion and fact.
  • Ask yourself if the source has been written for a particular readership?  For instance a public speech may be written to arouse a particular response from the audience.  It may not contain the true views of its author, and may therefore be unreliable.
  • Ask yourself if the language in the document is measured or if it is emotive and designed to evoke a particular response.




 Political cartoons are a common and popular source of historical evidence.  Analysing cartoons can be quite a difficult task, as cartoons are not usually concerned with presenting a balanced view.

  • You must at first place the cartoon in its historical context i.e. from which period does it belong to?  Most cartoons will include the date of publication.  Think back and try to recall what was happening at this particular time.
  • It’s important to determine where the cartoon comes from.  Find out which publication it came from.  Try to discover if the newspaper or magazine from which the cartoon came is controlled or influenced by a particular political party or organisation.
  • Study the characters in the cartoon.  Are they presented in a realistic manner or are their features exaggerated?  Does the cartoonist attempt to show its subjects in a good, bad or humorous way?  Do you consider the cartoon to be biased in any way?
  • Study the background in the cartoon.  Are there any symbols or signs that might give you more information on the purpose of the cartoon?
  • Most cartoons will include a caption.  Read the caption.  Ask yourself if you consider the caption to be a fair description of the political situation at that time?