Comparing sources

Learning intention

Students explore different approaches to comparing and contrasting sources in the classroom.

Students will:

  • Locate, compare, select and use information from a range of sources as evidence (ACHHS153)

  • Draw conclusions about the usefulness of sources(ACHHS154)

Bear in mind that any source, image or doucment study needs students to have some background knowledge on the period, people and events involved.


By comparing groups of sources you can:

  • show change over time
  • show bias and inaccuracies in sources
  • develop research questions for further investigation
  • illustrate how events can be interpreted in different ways
  • show how new evidence can change how we understand the past
  • highlight how sources associated with different cultural and social groups offer different interpretations
  • illustrate how authors and artists construct sources
  • identify the features of a source that manipulate the viewer or reader.

For more information, see the Select resources section of this site.

For background information and primary sources on a range of Victorian topics, see the Explore history section of this site.



Break students into groups of 4-5 and ask them to focus on one source. Ask each student to complete a template depending on their group's source.

Once they've finished, create new groups containing at least one student representing each source. Provide additional sources or discussion questions to the new groups, to highlight key issues raised by the sources. Students then compare two sources and suggest reasons for differences and similarities they find.

Discussion questions

  • Why do sources present different versions of events?
  • What effect does the period/creator/purpose have on the overall message of the source?
  • Which source do you think is the most accurate? Why?
  • Do you think older or newer sources are more accurate? Why?


Give different groups the same source and ask them to re-enact the events portrayed in the source, or present their interpretation of the creator's main message, in the form of a short role play, skit or interview. The whole group can then discuss and identify how and why each version is different.

Discussion questions

  • Which details were different? Setting? Number of participants?
  • How do the characters differ from one version to the next?
  • How was the tone of each performance different?
  • Are any of these differences due to bias in the source?
  • Why is each performance different and what does this tell us about personal interpretation and bias?