Analyzing a source in IB History is quite the scary task. Bias, primary, secondary… what?
However, there is an acronym — OPVL — that can be used to simplify source analysis.
O – Origin. Where did the source come from? Who did it come from? When did it come from?
P – Purpose. What are the ramifications of the origins? In terms of the historical context of the source, what does it mean?
V – Value. With the origin and purpose in mind, what value does this source have? (Bias does not make a source worthless!!!) What does it show about the society? What does it show about the type of thinking at that time?
L – Limitations. Despite the value, what pitfalls in the origin and purpose cause this source to not be valuable? Is it damaged? Was it mistranslated? Was it “corrupted” since it was altered for a specific audience only?
Just try to structure your source analysis with these points in a logical sequence; each one should build on top of previous points.
- Bias does not make a source worthless.
- Try to give a balanced discussion of value and limitations (don’t spend a page on value and a sentence on limitations).
- In regards to origin, make sure you are familiar with the major political cartoons, newspapers, media, etc. of the time era you are studying. It often shows you what kind of perspective this source is coming from.
- Do not disregard a source because it is “merely” propaganda.
- Try to develop a purpose which relates to the origins of the source.
- Keep in mind different historical interpretations of the source.
- Is the source primary, secondary, etc? A historical artifact and an encyclopedia article are very different.
Most of these skills will be tested in Paper 1 of IB History. To some extent, you should try to put these OPVL skills in practice in papers 2 and 3.
Questions? Have more tips? Comment!