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On many levels, it much easier to evaluate sources today, because we have access to so much information, whether from historical databases, archival library collections, or numerous other avenues of research. Thus, we no longer need to just assume that if so-and-so wrote it, it must have been true. What also is helpful is that historians are specially trained (many major in the subject in college or get an advanced degree); they learn research methods and are taught how to assess and evaluate the reliability of the claims and assertions the sources make.

Historians also learn that certain sources were admired in their day but might not be considered as reputable today; and they learn how to factor in the era in which the source was writing, and the state of knowledge at that time. (It is never helpful to blame someone from the 1700s for not understanding modern science, for example.) Historians are expected to recognize bias (whether political, religious, bias based on social class, etc); a good historian always has a healthy skepticism when evaluating what others have written or said. This can be very useful when reading certain sources that make exaggerated claims: a trained historian can spot something that is historically impossible, or identify areas where something could not possibly have happened that way.

Historians today also can differentiate between Propaganda and fact: when a politician claims things were so much better in the "good old days," a trained historian can examine what life was really like in a certain time period, and examine the facts about the crime rate, what the public believed about crime, how laws were enforced, etc. To sum up, historians evaluate their sources by looking at them in the context of what was happening in society when the source was writing, by comparing them to other sources in a given time, by exploring what others have said about these sources, and by fact-checking the claims these sources make.

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11y ago
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8y ago

I believe every student is an amateur historian. Any time you access a source, you must evaluate its accuracy and validity to today.

For example, let's say you were writing about whether the earth is flat or round. You could conceivably find an historical text that declared the Earth was flat. Even if the historical scientist was a well-known figure, you also know this idea was debunked. Moral: Just because someone is or was viewed as an "expert" doesn't mean the information is accurate today. Try to find the more recent "evidence".

Along the same line, let's say you are researching health benefits of salt. You find a website that looks professional, but it says that people can guarantee their luck over their health by throwing a pinch of salt over the shoulder. This was a superstition and myth, which you should be able to disprove with just a bit of research. Moral: "Facts" are not necessarily facts just based on how nicely the book or magazine looks. Always view every source with caution and some disbelief, until you find more evidence saying the same thing.

In another example, you've learned that ANYone can write ANYthing. The internet is full of opinions masquerading as supposed facts. You not only have to evaluate the content, but also who wrote it. Go to trusted websites for information. Use professional journal articles instead of websites.

Some historical documents can contain errors. For example, in genealogy, a Court Clerk recording a marriage in 1943 wrote that a woman was born in 1832. You look at it twice, and KNOW it is just wrong. In that case, you cite the source, but note that the text contains this error.

So like professional historians, student-historians evaluate:

  1. the date written
  2. the writer/s
  3. the facts stated
  4. whether the facts can be confirmed by other writers
  5. whether the facts stated make sense and fit with other commonly accepted facts.
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13y ago

cross-checking it

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Q: How do historians evaluate the accuracy of their sources?
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Related questions

Why do historians have to evaluate the primary and the secondary sources they used to answer their questions?

to be happy

Why do historians have to evaluate primary and secondary sources they use to answer their questions?

to be happy

Why do historians have to evaluate the primary secondary sources they use to answer their question?

to be happy

Why do historians have to evaluate the primary and secondary sources they used to answer questions?

to be happy

Why Historians are concerned with accuracy of their writings and readings but are also aware of?

Historians are concerned with accuracy to ensure that the information they provide is reliable and can be trusted by others. They are also aware of the limitations of historical sources, such as bias or incomplete information, and strive to critically evaluate and interpret these sources to present a well-rounded and nuanced understanding of the past.

What do historians use to check for accuracy?

Historians use a variety of primary sources such as documents, artifacts, and eyewitness accounts to check for accuracy in historical research. They also cross-reference information from multiple sources and analyze the context in which historical events took place to ensure accuracy in their interpretations. Additionally, historians may use scholarly research and peer-reviewed sources to verify the accuracy of their findings.

How can historians today use primary sources to determine that a date is accurate?

Historians can use primary sources such as official records, diaries, letters, and inscriptions to cross-reference multiple sources for a particular date or event. By assessing the reliability and consistency of information across different primary sources, historians can determine the accuracy of a date through triangulation and corroboration. Additionally, comparing primary sources with secondary sources can help historians validate the accuracy of a date.

Why is it harder for a historian to use sources than for a detective?

Historians often deal with incomplete, biased, or conflicting sources, making it challenging to piece together an accurate narrative. Unlike detectives who may have access to physical evidence, historians must interpret and analyze historical documents to construct their understanding of the past. Additionally, historical sources may be limited by the perspectives or agendas of their creators, requiring historians to critically evaluate their reliability.

Why do historians have to to evaluate the primary and secondary sources they use to answer their questions?

just give me the answer it isnt hard

Why do historians ask questions to evaluate their sources?

Asking questions helps them investigate the past in a meaningful way. They also focus the historians research.

What was the significance of the scientific revolution of the study of history?

Historians were influenced by scientists to evaluate their sources more critically

How can voters evaluate campaign ads for accuracy?

Separating Fact from Opinion Detecting Bias Evaluating Sources Identifying propaganda