Analyzing sources such as pictures, sculpture, photographes, excerpts from films, pieces of tet, objets and buildings is an important critical thinking skill in humanities.


  • First you need to find out where the source was made, when it was made, where it was made, and who made it.
  • You might also ask why it was made.
  • It is also useful to know something about the circumstances in which it was produced (if possible).


  • When the investigations about the origins have been completed (to the best of your ability) you can decide whether the source will be useful for your purpose
  • What are you trying to find out by examining the source?


  • A source needs to be evaluated (tested) to check how accurate it might be.
  • Is the source reliable (accurate)? The reliability of the evidence in a source can depend on what you want to use it for. It might be reliable in some parts and unreliable in others. Even if it is unreliable, a source might still be useful for some purposes. Reliability can often be checked by cross-referencing a source with other sources.
  • Is the source biased or does it contain some bias? When looking at sources, it is important to be able to distinguish between fact, opinion and judgment.


  • What are the limitations of the source? Is it useful for the purpose of analysis?
  • Evaluation of a source involves assessing the limitations.
  • A source that experts might decide is biased or misleading could still have a use. Some sources might not be helpful for one task (and therefore, limited) but can be for another.
  • If the source is full of bias and opinion maybe it has limited use for the purpose.
  • If there are a number of sources and they contradict (disagree), the historian has to make a judgment on them, or state that there is doubt in the final account.
  • The historian's final story about the past is an interpretation based on the available evidence. However much material the historian has to work with, it is never possible to give a definitive answer to the question asked.

Questions on the sources


1. i) Look at Sources 1A and 1B. What is the origin of each of these sources?
(ii) What is the message in each source? What is the first doctor saying? What is the second doctor saying?
(iii) Which of these sources of writings do you think shows a renaissance attitude and why?

Source 1A

From the writings of John of Arezzo a famous doctor, 1464.

Source 1B

God and Reason in the Middle Ages Edward Grant Google Books.png
Part of a letter from Bernart Tornius a famous doctor of the 15h century, requesting permission from a father to carry out an autopsy on his son's body.

2. (i) How are the anatomical studies in Sources 1C and 1D different from each other?
(ii) Can you think of any reason for the difference?
(iii) In what way(s) are these sources useful for a historian trying to understand changes that occurred during the Renaissance?

Source 1C

KOLAHUN Andreas Vesalius M.D. 1514 1554 .png
Medieval diagram of the human skeleton

Source 1D

Anatomical sketches by Leonardo da Vinci

3. What do you think Paraclesus (Source 1F meant when he says that a doctor who is not also a surgeon is "an idol that is nothing but a painted monkey"?

Source 1E

Project Guttenberg Medieval Medicine.jpeg
Picture showing an operation being carried out in the late Middle Ages

Source 1F

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A comment about the famous Renaissance doctor, Paracelsus.

4. What do you think Paracelsus would have thought of the operation being carried out in Source 1E?

Religion and Scientific Thought

5. What do the Sources 2A and 2B have in common?

Source 2A

Science-Medicine Sources.003.jpg
Martin Luther's Reply to the Diet of Worms, April 18, 1521. He refused to take back his views which the Church said were heretical.

Source 2B

Science-Medicine Sources Gallileo.004.jpg
Gallileo's comment at his trial for disagreeing with the Church belief that the Earth was the centre of the universe.

Source 2C

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The Church's verdict on Luther

6. Do you think that Source 2C follows the same line of reasoning as Sources 2A and 2B? Explain your answer.

7. Why do you think the Church opposed new ideas like those of Luther and of Galileo?


Source 3A

A medieval view of the movement of the planets, based on the writings of Ptolemy 1,200 years before.

Source 3B

The movement of the planets from Copernicus' book.

Source 3C

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Martin Luther's comments on the theory of Copernicus.

Source 3D

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Nicolas Copernicus conclusion to his work on the movement of the planets. (De Revolutionibus, I, 10.)

8. Ptolomy's theory (Source 3A) was accepted for 1,200 years. What does this tell about about science in the early and middle part of the medieval period?

9. What is the main difference between the universe shown in Sources 3A and that shown in Source 3B? Source 3D provides a clue.

10. Is the argument used by Luther against Copernicus in Source 3C based upon scientific reasoning? Explain your answer.