Biased Sources

By Brett Hager 07 Jul 14:58
17 slides
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In your exam you will need to show that you can evaluate sources for their usefulness. This exercise will look specifically at sources that are biased or influenced in some way.
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Soviet government photograph of 1933 showing tractors on a collective farm
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Technique for looking at sourcesStart by looking closely at the photograph.

Write down as many details about it, however small or obvious, you can always eliminate them later.

Also the subject of the source might appear to be obvious, but don't be content with just a glance.
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Soviet government photograph of 1933 showing tractors on a collective farm
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Here is what I came up with:There are eight tractors.

They are all working together at ploughing a field or cutting corn.

They have been photographed from above so we can see the pattern they make.

They look quite old: from the 1930s?
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The photograph and its usefulnessIs it...
Useful because this photo is from a farm in the USSR?
Useless because it was never like this in the USSR - tractors were never this common?
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Examiner's viewBoth these statements are true and worth making. However, a source is never completely useful or totally useless.
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The caption and its reliabilityNow look at the caption, or the attribution as it is sometimes called:
Soviet government photograph of 1933 showing tractors on a collective farm.
Examiners take great care over the captions. Every word has been included for a purpose. Use them in your answer if you can.
The caption may tell you about the reliability of the source. Is it what it appears to be? Who made it? Was the person who made it present at these events? Why was it made? When?
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Soviet government photograph of 1933 showing tractors on a collective farm.The caption may tell you about the reliability of the source. Is it what it appears to be? Who made it? Was the person who made it present at these events? Why was it made? When?
In this case, how does the caption affect the reliability of the photograph?
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Examiner's viewThe date is right, but that does not make it reliable, it just begins to make it useful.
Remember that photographs can be 'set up' to show things that never really happened. The photograph itself can be altered after printing.
This is an important point. The Soviet government may have had all sorts of reasons for putting out this photo as propaganda and therefore it may not be very reliable.
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Having established that the source is not very reliable, how useful is it?Is it:

Useless because it is unreliable? It is Soviet government information and probably biased.

Useful because it tells us what propaganda the Soviet government in the 1930s was putting out?
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Examiner's view1. It is certainly biased information and would not be an accurate record of what was happening on the collective farms, but that does not mean it can be rejected as useless.

2. The photo may not be reliable as factual evidence of farming practices, but it is very useful as evidence of Soviet propaganda.
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Having established that it is not very reliable as factual evidence, how useful is it as propaganda?This evidence is useful for telling us what the Soviet government wanted people to think about what was happening on the farms. Farming was going well; it was mechanised, with lots of tractors.

Soviet agriculture was improving under Stalin's collectivisation plans. They wanted people to think this in order to persuade them to join the collectives, which many peasants opposed.
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Soviet government photograph of 1933 showing tractors on a collective farm.
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How useful is the source as a form of propaganda?This answer does not get at the purpose of the propaganda, which was to persuade the peasants to co-operate in collectivisation.

This is a good answer because it gives the reason for the publication of Soviet government propaganda.
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Examiner's viewThis answer does not get at the purpose of the propaganda, which was to persuade the peasants to co-operate in collectivisation.

This is a good answer because it gives the reason for the publication of Soviet government propaganda.
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Exam tipsA source is never completely useless or completely useful.
Biased, unreliable sources can still be useful.
Think about what the source might be useful for.
You may need to add in your own knowledge to make complete sense of the source.

Slides in Biased Sources

In your exam you will need to show that you can evaluate sources for their usefulness. This exercise will look specifically at sources that are biased or influenced in some way.
Start by looking closely at the photograph. Write down as many details about it, however small or obvious, you can always eliminate them later. Also the subject of the source might appear to be obvious, but don't be content with just a glance.
There are eight tractors. They are all working together at ploughing a field or cutting corn. They have been photographed from above so we can see the pattern they make. They look quite old: from the 1930s?
Both these statements are true and worth making. However, a source is never completely useful or totally useless.
Now look at the caption, or the attribution as it is sometimes called: Soviet government photograph of 1933 showing tractors on a collective farm. Examiners take great care over the captions. Every word has been included for a purpose. Use them in your answer if you can. The caption may tell you about the reliability of the source. Is it what it appears to be? Who made it? Was the person who made it present at these events? Why was it made? When?
The date is right, but that does not make it reliable, it just begins to make it useful. Remember that photographs can be 'set up' to show things that never really happened. The photograph itself can be altered after printing. This is an important point. The Soviet government may have had all sorts of reasons for putting out this photo as propaganda and therefore it may not be very reliable.
Is it: Useless because it is unreliable? It is Soviet government information and probably biased. Useful because it tells us what propaganda the Soviet government in the 1930s was putting out?
1. It is certainly biased information and would not be an accurate record of what was happening on the collective farms, but that does not mean it can be rejected as useless. 2. The photo may not be reliable as factual evidence of farming practices, but it is very useful as evidence of Soviet propaganda.
This evidence is useful for telling us what the Soviet government wanted people to think about what was happening on the farms. Farming was going well; it was mechanised, with lots of tractors. Soviet agriculture was improving under Stalin's collectivisation plans. They wanted people to think this in order to persuade them to join the collectives, which many peasants opposed.
This answer does not get at the purpose of the propaganda, which was to persuade the peasants to co-operate in collectivisation. This is a good answer because it gives the reason for the publication of Soviet government propaganda.
This answer does not get at the purpose of the propaganda, which was to persuade the peasants to co-operate in collectivisation. This is a good answer because it gives the reason for the publication of Soviet government propaganda.
A source is never completely useless or completely useful. Biased, unreliable sources can still be useful. Think about what the source might be useful for. You may need to add in your own knowledge to make complete sense of the source.
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