BlogModern HistoryHow to Write a 10/10 HSC Modern History Source Analysis

How to Write a 10/10 HSC Modern History Source Analysis

 HSC Modern History

Have no idea where to start when it comes to undertaking a source analysis for HSC Modern History?

We’ve broken it down into an easy step-by-step guide you can follow to ace your HSC Modern History source analysis!

Let’s jump in!

Step 1: Figure out what the question is asking
Step 2: Use an analysis checklist
Step 3: Determine the origin of the source
Step 4: Determine the motive behind the source
Step 5: Consider what content is presented in the source
Step 6: Consider the intended audience of the source
Step 7: Assess the perspective presented in the source
Step 8: Determine the reliability of the source
Step 9: Consider how useful the source is

Step 1: Figure out what the question is asking

The first thing you need to do is find out what the question is asking.

A typical HSC question will ask ‘Assess the usefulness of Sources X and Y to a historian studying _____”.

It is the end of that question that is important as it will normally be straight from a syllabus dot point.

Skeptical? Let me prove it to you – check out these previous HSC questions below and their corresponding syllabus dot points!

HSC Modern History Exam 2019:

Contrast the value of Sources B and C to a historian studying the impact of the Nazi regime on German youth. (7 marks)

  • Syllabus Point: the impact of the Nazi regime on life in Germany, including cultural expression, religion, workers, youth, women, minorities including Jews.
HSC Modern History Sample Paper 2018:

Study Sources B, D and G. To what extent do these sources provide evidence of the methods of control used by the Nazi regime? (8 marks)

  • Syllabus Point: the various methods used by the Nazi regime to exercise control, including laws, censorship, repression, terror, propaganda, cult of personality
HSC Modern History Exam 2019:

To what extent was the Nazi regime successful in eliminating opposition in the period 1933–1939? In your response, integrate relevant evidence from Sources D and E. (12 marks)

  • Syllabus Point: the rise of the Nazi party and Hitler in Germany and the collapse of the Weimar Republic
  • Syllabus Point: the initial consolidation of Nazi power

Looking for more questions to practise with? Check out our master list of HSC Modern History past papers here!

Step 2: Use an analysis checklist

Many students struggle with source analysis questions for HSC Modern History, so we’ve included a great acronym to help you remember what to discuss and in what order!

source analysis


Depending on the source, addressing each of the above points should require 1-2 sentences.

So 1-2 sentences for origin, 1-2 sentences about motive, and so on. This means you should have at least 7-14 sentences in your final answer. 

To help you out, we’re going to give you an example of how to analyse a source using OMCAPUR.

But first, download your HSC Modern History Source Analysis PDF Guide!


Source D from the 2014 HSC Past Paper


source analysis

Step 3: Determine the origin of the source

  • Is source primary or secondary?
  • When was the source created?
  • Who created the source?

Example answer:

Source D is a primary source created during World War I by the Australian Government as part of the recruitment effort.

Step 4: Determine the motive behind the source

  • Why did the author create the source?
  • Was it to document an event, write a historical summary of an event, give their opinion and/or to sway an audience?
  • Why was the source created?

Here you can also bring in bias if appropriate.

For example, a propaganda poster is created in order to influence public opinion on a matter according to an agenda. The source would be highly biased, as it was not created based solely on neutral facts.

Example answer:

The motive behind Source D is to aid in the recruitment of Australian soldiers to help the war effort. The text of the source “will you help us keep that promise” is used to sway the audience into feeling an obligation to assist the British forces, and is intended to encourage Australians into joining the war effort.

Step 5: Consider what content is presented in the source

  • What is in the foreground?
  • What is in the background?
  • How are the figures positioned?
  • What kind of symbolism has the composer used?
  • What do these symbols represent?

Tell the reader what the source contains.

Example answer:

The foreground features a kangaroo, using a native Australian animal to symbolise Australia as a nation. The background features troops in active battle, symbolising the war effort. The position of the text between these two features symbolises the connection between Australia and Britain, heightening the obligation the audience feels to Britain when observing the source.

Step 6: Consider the intended audience of the source

This links to motive, as you must answer who the intended audience of the source is which is often considered when creating a source.

  • Who is the intended viewer?
  • In what context would they arise?
  • Where would they be likely to view this?
  • What would they be doing with the information?

If it is a historian it is likely that the audience is the general public or an academic circle.

If the source is a diary entry it is highly likely that the intended audience was either solely to the author or their family.

Considering the audience is very important, as it will also reveal elements of bias that may be present in the source.

Example answer:

The intended audience is the Australian public, as encouragement to join the war effort is not limited to only men who are eligible to become soldiers. Families of eligible men were also targeted to encourage their family members to volunteer. It is likely this source was presented in newspapers, posters and flyers.

Step 7: Assess the perspective presented in the source

  • What opinions or belief statements are evident in the article?
  • What is the source’s or the composers’/’s context?
  • Would another source/composer have a different point of view depending on his/her background experiences?
  • What opinions does the source/composer paint for a reader?
  • What facts were missing?
  • What words and phrases did the source/author use to present the information?
  • Why is the source presented in such a way, or why does the author present it in such a way?

This considers whether a source is objective or subjective.

Perspective is extremely important as it helps establish your two most important arguments of the paragraph reliability and perspective.

Example answer: 

The perspective presented in Source D is pro-enlistment, presumably coming from the Australian Government. The phrasing presented in the source is of very high modality to sway the audience’s opinions and emotions.

Step 8: Determine the reliability of the source

  • Is the source consistent with data available about the topic?
  • Are there other sources which could validate the information given from this source?
  • Does it have scholarly credibility? Where was it published? How was it published?
  • Does the source fulfil an agenda? (i.e. was the source produced for an opinion/stance, or was the stance a product from the source?)

For a source to be considered reliable it must contain accurate historical information.

This means that a source can be written in a completely subjective manner and still be considered reliable, as all facts are accurate.

Example answer: 

This source is a reliable depiction of efforts to recruit Australian soldiers to the war effort. While the source is obviously geared to sway its audience’s opinion and encourage them to enlist, and in that sense is not an objective source of information, it does give reliable information on the nature of propaganda during WWI in Australia.

Step 9: Consider how useful the source is

All sources are useful whether or not they are reliable. In order to concisely answer whether a source is ‘useful’, consider the three R’s:

  • Is the source relevant to what is being asked?
  • Has the source revealed an insight into the question?
  • Is the source reliable in providing the information required to answer the question?

Example answer:

Source D would be an extremely useful piece of information for historians studying the nature of propaganda and the recruitment effort of Australia during WWI. It gives great insight into the way propaganda was used by the government to recruit soldiers by giving a reliable depiction of the recruitment effort.

Don’t forget to download your HSC Modern History Source Analysis PDF Guide!

Wondering how you can get a Band 6 in HSC Modern History? Head here for getting great marks in the subject!

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Milana Gusavac thought she had seen the end of HSC until she realised that others out there needed help surviving year 12 just like she had. Now she’s a member of the Art of Smart team while perusing her studies at the University of Sydney, studying a Bachelor of Psychology. When not learning or helping other’s Milana can be found with her nose in a book or marathoning TV shows.

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