Guide for Students and Teachers: Source Contextualisation Questions

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This video introduces source contextualisation questions and the best technique for answering them with emphasis on interpretation, analysis and recall.


Simon Wood       

The third type of question that you will be asked in the examination is contextualisation question.  There will be two questions that will assess this skill.  There are two different sorts of question stems that you are therefore going to see. The first question stem starts with the words “How fully does source D explain ...” a particular event, a consequence, or whatever historical thing is being looked at.  This question will apply to one of the four major sub-areas of the topic, therefore the source and the recall are likely to be quite general.

The second type of contextualisation question will start with the stem, “How far does source E explain ...” an event or whatever the historical subject being looked at says.  This is a more specific question and will relate to one of three sub-themes that develop the overall content area.  Therefore, for example, in the Scottish impact of World War One on Scotland, the three sub-issues look at the development of radicalism, the continuing support for unionism, and the crisis of Scottish identify, so therefore it will be about one of those three sub-issues.  The sources therefore like to be a little bit more specific, and the recall you apply is also going to have to be more specific to the topic.

The way the marks are allocated therefore again becomes very important.  Up to four marks are available for the way in which you interpret the source, up to seven marks are available for the relevance of recall that you apply to the answer.  Therefore again, although there are eleven marks available, there are a number of ways of achieving the ten out of ten. 

The way you answer the question is extremely important.  You must answer in terms the question is being asked, “How fully ...” or “How far ...”  Make that judgement.  Again, because they are contextualisation questions, they’re only likely to tell us part of the story.  So therefore, again, the judgement is always, just about always going to be they do not tell us the complete story.  You must therefore interpret the source, gain the relevant points from the source that apply to the question, make the judgement it doesn’t tell us the full story, and apply relevant recall.  Again, if you have time, a finishing sentence.  Both these questions are likely to be extremely long answers compared to the previous two, therefore again you must think about the number of discrete points you are making.

We have some problems that we see a lot.  The first one again is the fact that people do not answer the posed question, and also, as I have mentioned previously, the need to make discrete points in single sentences rather than listing of information.  If you’re going to analyse sources this really is needed.


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