Answering document questions

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Answering document questions

Careful reading of both the documents and the questions is essential. Answers sometimes fall short because the student has stopped reading once they have found one answer to the question; you must look at all the information that the source offers you.

Do not dismiss the information that is provided with every source, as it will help you to put the source in context. Look carefully at who wrote the source. Do you know anything about this person, would it mean that the source is written from a certain perspective? What about the date? Had things just changed, had an event just taken place, or was something significant just about to happen?

Not carefully the mark allocation. A question with a low allocation (2 or 3 marks) only requires a short answer.

The questions tell you which documents to refer to. Always refer to the sources the question tells you to. If you are asked to consider all of the documents in your answer do your very best to refer to each one. This will take you up to the higher levels in the mark band. But do not expect to find something equally relevant in each source: the question may be expressed in this way to see whether you can pick out which ones are most relevant.

In addition, if you are asked to refer to 'other evidence', or to include 'your own knowledge', do so.

Explain briefly the following references - two or three sentences will suffice for this answer, no matter how much you know about the topic. 'Briefly' means what it says.

Evaluate - This means that you are required to do more than simply extract information relevant to the question. You have to make some judgement or comment on this evidence.

Assess the reliability - This type of question can be approached in a number of ways. You can test the reliability against other documents, or against what you know. Assess the language of the document - is it emotive? What do you know about the author, or the date that it was written?

Try not to use the word 'bias', not doing may lead to your explanations being more thorough. If you do, make sure you have explained the way in which the source is biased in clear detail.

Words to use:

  • Author
  • Audience
  • Motive
  • Purpose
  • Propaganda
  • Limitations
  • Cross-reference
  • Interpretation