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Source Criticism For Dummies

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posted on Oct, 5 2010 @ 04:49 AM

Long time no post since I've been in school and buried under tons of literature, but now I will share something very useful that has come to my learnings; proper source criticism.
Please go through this before subscribing to wild claims, it is all very simple.

The 5 Points of Professional Source Criticism

1) Authenticity
Is the source real or is it fake? This would be the first question any research must begin with. But if the source is fake the question "why is it faked?" arises, a question that could be very interesting or important to solve as well.

2) Time
How long has it been since the event happened up until the source speaks of it? This is one of the most important factors of all. Information tends to change with time- drastically. You know the game when you whisper something to the guy next to you and he passes it on and at the end of the line the message has been severely distorted? Think what happens after a week, year or millennium...

3) Place
If the source material was composed during or soon after the event in question, where was the author located? This is very important because if the source isn't an eye witness it is dependent on other sources which in turn makes the quality of the information seriously lose value.

4) Tendency
Okay, so the source is genuine, but does it tend to take sides in the subject that it covers? Objective views are close to impossible to come across, but there are levels of biased information. If the source shows a strong tendency towards a certain side of the story, the researcher should not dismiss the source but rather ask why the tendencies are expressed like they are.

5) Context
When you have gone through all of the above, put the information in context with everything else that surrounds the event. Do you have to accept divine interventions or supernatural explanations to make it add up? Does local topography, culture, seasons, resources or whatever allow the event explained by the source to happen in said way?

If you want to make things even more simple to remember, you can call it the "5 T's"
Together, that was super-silly

The above system is also very useful when going through a case in court. Maybe some of the law students here at ATS finds it familiar... Just a thought.
Try to apply the 5 points to any major religious text and see if the story adds up!

Well, I hope that this thread will come to use and that it may contribute to the general quality of the ATS threadworks.

Peace out ya'll!

edit on 5-10-2010 by Raud because: clarification

posted on Oct, 5 2010 @ 04:52 AM
reply to post by Raud

super silly? try super cerial... for realzzzz

posted on Oct, 5 2010 @ 05:05 AM
Oh, I nearly forgot the most important part, lol!

The quality of the source is not judged by its content but rather by the questions asked.
With other words; there are no such thing as a bad source, only bad questions to be asked towards a certain source.
Take for example the Roman historian and politician Tacitus and how he described the Germanic people of north Europe (a population he never met in person); if you ask the source about the actual conditions of the Germanic tribes you will get a pretty strange picture drawn up, but if you instead as how did the Roman elite view the same tribes, the answer will be much more revealing.

So, just because your source fails time and again when confronted with the "5 T's" (lol), it doesn't mean you should bin it right away. Maybe you should just reformulate the inquiry, so to speak.

There, now I think I got it all straight.

posted on Oct, 5 2010 @ 06:57 AM
S n F
Think these are some very good guidelines that could prevent a lot of bs from being posted on these boards! If only everyone would consider them......

Where have you been btw? Haven't seen you around since the mutter-days!

posted on Nov, 11 2011 @ 01:19 AM
I'll add the five "W's" - Who, What, When, Where, and Why - to your suggestions on creating a better post. Thanks for hooking me up with this Raud. I'm sure it will come in handy.


posted on Nov, 11 2011 @ 06:58 AM
reply to post by OldCorp

Thanks for the input man, you are always most welcome!

Keep up the good work!

Maybe I should add that the source on this material is from an historian called Leopold von Ranke, who you can read up on here.
So, now the circle is complete!

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