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Source criticism

Source criticism

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A source criticism is a published source evaluation
Source evaluation
Source evaluation is the skill of analysing information sources in order to assess their credibility. The ability toassess different sources of information is highly relevant to the task of operating within a complex information society....

 (or information evaluation). An information source
Information source
"Source" means data that originates from either primary of secondary source. An information source is a source of information for somebody, i.e. anything that might inform a person about something or provide knowledge to somebody. Information sources may be observations, people, speeches,...

 may be a document, a person, a speech, a fingerprint, a photo, an observation or anything used in order to obtain knowledge. In relation to a given purpose, a given information source may be more or less valid, reliable or relevant. Broadly, "source criticism" is the interdisciplinary study of how information sources are evaluated for given tasks.

The meaning of "source criticism"


Problems in translation: The Danish word “kildekritik” like the Norwegian word “kildekritikk” and the Swedish word “källkritik” derived from the German “Quellenkritik” and is closely associated with the German historian Leopold von Ranke
Leopold von Ranke
Leopold von Ranke was a German historian, considered one of the founders of modern source-based history. Ranke set the standards for much of later historical writing, introducing such ideas as reliance on primary sources , an emphasis on narrative history and especially international politics .-...

 (1795–1886). Hardtwig writes: "His [Ranke's] first work Geschichte der romanischen und germanischen Völker von 1494–1514 (History of the Latin and Teutonic Nations from 1494 to 1514) (1824) was a great success. It already showed some of the basic characteristics of his conception of Europe, and was of historiographical importance particularly because Ranke made an exemplary critical analysis of his sources in a separate volume, Zur Kritik neuerer Geschichtsschreiber (On the Critical Methods of Recent Historians). In this work he raised the method of textual criticism
Textual criticism
Textual criticism is a branch of literary criticism that is concerned with the identification and removal of transcription errors in the texts of manuscripts...

 used in the late eighteenth century, particularly in classical philology to the standard method of scientific historical writing" (Hardtwig, 2001, p. 12739).


The larger part of the nineteenth and twentieth
centuries would be dominated by the research-oriented
conception of historical method of the so-called
Historical School in Germany, led by historians as
Leopold Ranke and Berthold Niebuhr. Their conception
of history, long been regarded as the beginning
of modern, `scientific' history, harked back to the
`narrow' conception of historical method, limiting the
methodical character of history to source criticism" (Lorenz, 2001).


Bible studies dominate the use of "source criticism" in America (cf. Hjørland, 2008). The term is thus relatively seldom used in English about historical method
Historical method
Historical method comprises the techniques and guidelines by which historians use primary sources and other evidence to research and then to write histories in the form of accounts of the past. The question of the nature, and even the possibility, of a sound historical method is raised in the...

s and historiography
Historiography
Historiography refers either to the study of the history and methodology of history as a discipline, or to a body of historical work on a specialized topic...

 (cf. Hjørland, 2008). This difference between European and American use of "source criticism" is somewhat strange considering the influence of Ranke on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. It has been suggested that differences in the use of the term are not accidental but due to different views of the historical method. In the German/Scandinavian tradition this subject is seen as important, whereas the Anglo-American tradition it is believed that historical methods must be specific and associated with the subject studied, for which reason there is no general field of "source criticism".

In the Scandinavian countries and elsewhere source evaluation (or information evaluation) is also studied interdisciplinarily from many different points of view, partly caused by the influence of the Internet. It is a growing field in, among other fields, library and information science
Library and information science
Library and information science is a merging of the two fields library science and information science...

. In this context source criticism is studied from a broader perspective than just, for example, history or Biblical studies.

Related concepts


A lot of terms are related to source criticism:
  • cognitive authority
    Cognitive authority
    "Patrick Wilson developed the cognitive authority theory from social epistemology in his book, Second-hand Knowledge: An Inquiry into Cognitive Authority. The fundamental concept of Wilson’s cognitive authority is that people construct knowledge in two different ways: based on their first-hand...

    ; authority (textual criticism)
    Authority (textual criticism)
    The authority of a text is its reliability as a witness to the author's intentions. These intentions could be initial, medial or final, but intentionalist editors generally attempt to retrieve final authorial intentions...

  • credibility
    Credibility
    Credibility refers to the objective and subjective components of the believability of a source or message.Traditionally, modern, credibility has two key components: trustworthiness and expertise, which both have objective and subjective components. Trustworthiness is based more on subjective...

     (e.g. media credibility)
  • critical literacy
    Critical literacy
    Critical Literacy is an instructional approach, stemming from Marxist Critical pedagogy, that advocates the adoption of "critical" perspectives toward text. Critical literacy encourages readers to actively analyze texts and offers strategies for what proponents describe as uncovering underlying...

     /critical reading
    Critical reading
    Critical reading is the opposite of naivety in reading. It is a form of skepticism that does not take a text at face value, but involves an examination of claims put forward in the text as well as implicit bias in the texts framing and selection of the information presented...

     /critical thinking
    Critical thinking
    Critical thinking is the process or method of thinking that questions assumptions. It is a way of deciding whether a claim is true, false, or sometimes true and sometimes false, or partly true and partly false. The origins of critical thinking can be traced in Western thought to the Socratic...

     /Information literacy
    Information literacy
    The National Forum on Information Literacy defines information literacy as “...the ability to know when there is a need for information, to be able to identify, locate, evaluate, and effectively use that information for the issue or problem at hand.” This is the most common definition; however,...

  • information criticism
    Information criticism
    Information criticism is by Lash understood as a transformation of critical theory to contend that today there is no longer any transcendental, objective, or privileged position from which critique or socialanalysis can be undertaken...

     /information quality /information evaluating
  • quality of evidence / quality norms in science and scholarship
  • relevance
    Relevance
    -Introduction:The concept of relevance is studied in many different fields, including cognitive sciences, logic and library and information science. Most fundamentally, however, it is studied in epistemology...

  • source evaluation
    Source evaluation
    Source evaluation is the skill of analysing information sources in order to assess their credibility. The ability toassess different sources of information is highly relevant to the task of operating within a complex information society....

     / source reliability
  • trust (social sciences); trustworthiness
    Trustworthiness
    Trustworthiness is a moral value considered to be a virtue. A trustworthy person is someone in whom you can place your trust and rest assured that the trust will not be betrayed. A person can prove their trustworthiness by fulfilling an assigned responsibility - and as an extension of that, not to...



One distinction may be made between normative terms (such as source criticism) which prescribe methodological principles about the use of information sources and on the other hand descriptive terms like credibility, which tend to describe users' attitudes towards sources. These two aspects are, however, not always clearly separated.

The relative meanings of many of these terms as used in the literature have been explored by Savolainen (2007). Here are some quotes from this paper:
  • "Media credibility and cognitive authority denote closely related concepts that are difficult to define unambiguously. This is partly because they overlap with a number of closely related concepts like quality of information, believability of media, and reliability and trustworthiness of information " (Savolainen, 2007).
  • "Information scientists tend to favour the concept of cognitive authority, while communication researchers prefer concepts such as source-, message-, medium- and media credibility". (Savolainen, 2007).
  • "Overall, cognitive authority was characterized as having six facets; trustworthiness, reliability, scholarliness, credibility, 'officialness' and authoritativeness; of these, trustworthiness was perceived as the primary facet. " (Savolainen, 2007).
  • "In turn, it is characteristic of studies on media credibility that they focus on the channel through which the content is delivered [...]. Typically, these studies have explored the criteria by which diverse media such as newspapers, radio and television are perceived as believable sources of information. As early as in the 1950s, regular surveys of media credibility were conducted in the United States by asking respondents to indicate which medium they would believe if they got conflicting reports of the same news story from radio, television, magazines and newspapers". (Savolainen, 2007).
  • "An empirical survey conducted in the late 1990s in Germany revealed that the credibility of the Web was fairly high among the general public, although printed newspapers were rated ahead of it [reference omitted here]. Compared to the Web, newspapers were perceived as more clear, serious, thorough, detailed, critical, generally credible, balanced, competent and professional. With regard to these qualities, the differences between television and the Web were less significant. The Web was conceived of as more up-to-date than newspaper and television. On the one hand, newspapers were considered more biased than television and the Web. This is due to the fact that although most newspapers call themselves neutral they nevertheless do have a political bias. On the other hand, the greater bias of newspapers may be seen as positive since they articulate alternative positions in public discourse. Interestingly, when asked which medium they would prefer in the case of contradictory news on the same issue, the respondents would mainly place their trust in traditional media." (Savolainen, 2007).

Core principles


The following principles are cited from two Scandinavian textbooks on source criticism, Olden-Jørgensen (1998) and Thurén (1997) written by historians:
  • Human sources may be relics (e.g. a fingerprint) or narratives (e.g. a statement or a letter). Relics are more credible sources than narratives.
  • A given source may be forged or corrupted; strong indications of the originality of the source increases its reliability.
  • The closer a source is to the event which it purports to describe, the more one can trust it to give an accurate description of what really happened
  • A primary source
    Primary source
    Primary source is a term used in a number of disciplines to describe source material that is closest to the person, information, period, or idea being studied....

     is more reliable than a secondary source
    Secondary source
    In scholarship, a secondary source is a document or recording that relates or discusses information originally presented elsewhere. A secondary source contrasts with a primary source, which is an original source of the information being discussed; a primary source can be a person with direct...

    , which in turn is more reliable than a tertiary source
    Tertiary source
    In scholarship, a tertiary source is a term used to describe a work which is chiefly a selection or compilation of other primary and secondary sources. The distinction between a secondary and tertiary source is relative, whereas the difference between primary and secondary sources is more absolute...

     and so on.
  • If a number of independent sources contain the same message, the credibility of the message is strongly increased.
  • The tendency of a source is its motivation for providing some kind of bias. Tendencies should be minimized or supplemented with opposite motivations.
  • If it can be demonstrated that the witness (or source) has no direct interest in creating bias, the credibility of the message is increased.


We may add the following principles:
  • Knowledge of source criticism cannot substitute subject knowledge:


"Because each source teaches you more and more about your subject, you will be able to judge with ever-increasing precision the usefulness and value of any prospective source. In other words, the more you know about the subject, the more precisely you can identify what you must still find out". (Bazerman, 1995, p. 304).

  • The reliability of a given source is relative to the questions put to it.

"The empirical case study showed that most people find it difficult to assess questions of cognitive authority and media credibility in a general sense, for example, by comparing the overall credibility of newspapers and the Internet. Thus these assessments tend to be situationally sensitive. Newspapers, television and the Internet were frequently used as sources of orienting information, but their credibility varied depending on the actual topic at hand" (Savolainen, 2007).

Levels of generality


How general are principles of source criticism?
Some principles are universal, other principles are specific for certain kinds of information sources. One may ask whether principles of source criticism are unique to the humanities?

There is today no consensus about the similarities and differences between natural science and humanities. Logical positivism
Logical positivism
Logical positivism is a philosophy that combines empiricism—the idea that observational evidence is indispensable for knowledge—with a version of rationalism incorporating mathematical and logico-linguistic constructs and deductions of epistemology.It may be considered as a type of analytic...

 claimed that all fields of knowledge were based on the same principles. Much of the criticism of logical positivism claimed that positivism is the basis of the sciences, whereas hermeneutics is the basis of the humanities. This was, for example, the position of Jürgen Habermas
Jürgen Habermas
Jürgen Habermas is a German sociologist and philosopher in the tradition of critical theory and pragmatism. He is perhaps best known for his theory on the concepts of 'communicative rationality' and the 'public sphere'...

. A newer position, in accordance with, among others, Hans-Georg Gadamer
Hans-Georg Gadamer
Hans-Georg Gadamer was a German philosopher of the continental tradition, best known for his 1960 magnum opus, Truth and Method .-Life:...

 and Thomas Kuhn
Thomas Kuhn
Thomas Samuel Kuhn was an American historian and philosopher of science whose controversial 1962 book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions was deeply influential in both academic and popular circles, introducing the term "paradigm shift," which has since become an English-language staple.Kuhn...

 understands both science and humanities as determined by researchers preunderstanding and paradigms. Hermeneutics is thus a universal theory. The difference is, however, that the sources of the humanities are themselves products of human interests and preunderstanding, whereas the sources of the natural sciences are not. Humanities are thus "double hermeneutic".

Natural scientists, however, are also using human products (such as scientific papers) which are products of preunderstanding (and, for example, academic fraud).

Epistemology


Epistemological theories are the basic theories about how knowledge is obtained and thus the most general theories about how to evaluate information sources. Empiricism
Empiricism
Empiricism is a theory of knowledge that asserts that knowledge comes only or primarily via sensory experience. One of several views of epistemology, the study of human knowledge, along with rationalism, idealism and historicism, empiricism emphasizes the role of experience and evidence,...

 evaluate sources by considering the observations (or sensations) on which they are based. Sources without basis in experience are not seen as valid. Rationalism
Rationalism
In epistemology and in its modern sense, rationalism is "any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification" . In more technical terms, it is a method or a theory "in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive"...

 provides low priority to sources based on observations. In order to be meaningful observations must be grasped by clear ideas or concepts. It is the logical structure and the well definedness that is in focus in evaluating information sources from the rationalist point of view. Historicism
Historicism
Historicism is a mode of thinking that assigns a central and basic significance to a specific context, such as historical period, geographical place and local culture. As such it is in contrast to individualist theories of knowledges such as empiricism and rationalism, which neglect the role of...

 evaluates information sources on the basis of their reflection of their sociocultural context and their theoretical development. Pragmatism
Pragmatism
Pragmatism is a philosophical tradition centered on the linking of practice and theory. It describes a process where theory is extracted from practice, and applied back to practice to form what is called intelligent practice...

 evaluate sources on the basis of how their values and usefulness to accomplish certain outcomes. Pragmatism is skeptical about claimed neutral information sources.

The evaluation of knowledge or information sources cannot be more certain than is the construction of knowledge. If we accept the principle of fallibilism
Fallibilism
Fallibilism is the philosophical principle that human beings could be wrong about their beliefs, expectations, or their understanding of the world...

 we also have to accept that source criticism can never 100% verify knowledge claims. As discussed in ther next section is source criticism intimately linked to scientific method
Scientific method
Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of...

s.

The presence of fallacies of argument in sources is another kind of philosophical criteria for evaluating sources. Fallacies are presented by Walton (1998). Among the fallacies are the ‘ad hominem fallacy’ (the use of personal attack to try to undermine or refute a person’s argument) and the ‘straw man fallacy’ (when one arguer misrepresents another’s position to make it appear less plausible than it really is, in order more easily to criticize or refute it.) See also fallacy
Fallacy
In logic and rhetoric, a fallacy is usually an incorrect argumentation in reasoning resulting in a misconception or presumption. By accident or design, fallacies may exploit emotional triggers in the listener or interlocutor , or take advantage of social relationships between people...

.

Research methodology


Research methods are methods used to produce scholarly knowledge. The methods that are relevant for producing knowledge are also relevant for evaluating knowledge. An example of a book that turns methodology upside-down and uses it to evaluate produced knowledge is Katzer; Cook & Crouch (1998). See also Unobtrusive measures
Unobtrusive measures
Unobtrusive research is a method of data collection used primarily in the social sciences. The term "unobtrusive measures" was first coined by Webb, Campbell, Schwartz, & Sechrest in a 1966 book titled Unobtrusive Meaures: nonreactive research in the social sciences...

, Triangulation (social science)
Triangulation (social science)
In the social sciences, triangulation is often used to indicate that more than two methods are used in a study with a view to double checking results. This is also called "cross examination"....

.

Science studies


Studies of quality evaluation processes such as peer review
Peer review
Peer review is a process of self-regulation by a profession or a process of evaluation involving qualified individuals within the relevant field. Peer review methods are employed to maintain standards, improve performance and provide credibility...

, book review
Book review
A book review is a form of literary criticism in which a book is analyzed based on content, style, and merit. A book review could be a primary source opinion piece, summary review or scholarly review. It is often carried out in periodicals, as school work, or on the internet. Reviews are also often...

s and of the normative criteria used in evaluation of scientific and scholarly research. Another field is the study of Scientific misconduct
Scientific misconduct
Scientific misconduct is the violation of the standard codes of scholarly conduct and ethical behavior in professional scientific research. A Lancet review on Handling of Scientific Misconduct in Scandinavian countries provides the following sample definitions: *Danish definition: "Intention or...

.

Harris (1979) provides a case study of how a famous experiment in psychology, Little Albert, has been distorted throughout the history of psychology, starting with the author (Watson) himself, general textbook authors, behavior therapists, and a prominent learning theorist. Harris proposes possible causes for these distortions and analyzes the Albert study as an example of myth making in the history of psychology. Studies of this kind may be regarded a special kind of reception history (how Watson's paper was received). It may also be regarded as a kind of critical history (opposed to ceremonial history of psychology, cf. Harris, 1980). Such studies are important for source criticism in revealing the bias introduced by referring to classical studies.

See also Hjørland (2008): Empirical studies of the quality of science.

Textual criticism


Textual criticism (or broader: text philology) is a part of philology
Philology
Philology is the study of language in written historical sources; it is a combination of literary studies, history and linguistics.Classical philology is the philology of Greek and Classical Latin...

, which is not just devoted to the study of texts, but also to edit and produce "scientific editions", "scholarly editions", "standard editions", "historical editions", "reliable editions", "reliable texts", "text editions" or "critical editions", which are editions in which careful scholarship has been employed to ensure that the information contained within is as close to the author's/composer's original intentions as possible (and which allows the user to compare and judge changes in editions published under influence by the author/composer). The relation between these kinds of works and the concept "source criticism" is evident in Danish, where they may be termed "kildekritisk udgave" (directly translated "source critical edition").

In other words it is assumed that most editions of a given works is filled with noise and errors provided by publishers, why it is important to produce "scholarly editions". The work provided by text philology is an important part of source criticism in the humanities.
  • Palaeography
    Palaeography
    Palaeography, also spelt paleography is the study of ancient writing. Included in the discipline is the practice of deciphering, reading, and dating historical manuscripts, and the cultural context of writing, including the methods with which writing and books were produced, and the history of...

  • Textual criticism
    Textual criticism
    Textual criticism is a branch of literary criticism that is concerned with the identification and removal of transcription errors in the texts of manuscripts...

  • Higher criticism
  • Historical editions (music)
    Historical editions (music)
    Historical editions are a category of published music in print, generally containing Classical music from a past repertory. Although the term can apply to many music publications, it is often applied to scholarly or critical editions, or in other words, music editions in which careful scholarship...

  • Urtext edition
    Urtext edition
    An urtext edition of a work of classical music is a printed version intended to reproduce the original intention of the composer as exactly as possible, without any added or changed material...



complete works and monumental editions

Psychology


The study of eyewitness testimony
Eyewitness testimony
Research in eyewitness testimony is mostly considered a subfield within legal psychology, however it is a field with very broad implications. Human reports are normally based on visual perception, which is generally held to be very reliable...

 is an important field of study used, among other purposes, to evaluate testimony in courts. The basics of eyewitness fallibility includes factors such as poor viewing conditions, brief exposure, and stress. More subtle factors, such as expectations, biases, and personal stereotypes can intervene to create erroneous reports. Loftus (1996) discuss all such factors and also shows that eyewitness memory is chronically inaccurate in surprising ways. An ingenious series of experiments reveals that memory can be radically altered by the way an eyewitness is questioned after the fact. New memories can be implanted and old ones unconsciously altered under interrogation.

Anderson (1978) and Anderson & Pichert (1977) reported an elegant experiment demonstrating how change in perspective affected people's ability to recall information that was unrecallable from another perspective.

In psychoanalysis the concept of defence mechanism
Defence mechanism
In Freudian psychoanalytic theory, defence mechanisms are unconscious psychological strategies brought into play by various entities to cope with reality and to maintain self-image. Healthy persons normally use different defences throughout life...

 is important and may be considered a contribution to the theory of source criticism because it explains psychological mechanisms, which distort the realiability of human information sources.

Library and information science (LIS)


In schools of library and information science (LIS) is source criticism of taught as part of the growing field Information literacy
Information literacy
The National Forum on Information Literacy defines information literacy as “...the ability to know when there is a need for information, to be able to identify, locate, evaluate, and effectively use that information for the issue or problem at hand.” This is the most common definition; however,...

.
Study issues like relevance
Relevance
-Introduction:The concept of relevance is studied in many different fields, including cognitive sciences, logic and library and information science. Most fundamentally, however, it is studied in epistemology...

, quality indicators for documents, kinds of documents and their qualities (e.g. scholarly editions) and related issues are studied in LIS and are relevant for source criticism. Bibliometrics
Bibliometrics
Bibliometrics is a set of methods to quantitatively analyze scientific and technological literature. Citation analysis and content analysis are commonly used bibliometric methods...

 is often used to find the most influential journal, authors, countries and institutions. The study of book review
Book review
A book review is a form of literary criticism in which a book is analyzed based on content, style, and merit. A book review could be a primary source opinion piece, summary review or scholarly review. It is often carried out in periodicals, as school work, or on the internet. Reviews are also often...

s and their function in evaluating books should also be mentioned. The well-known comparison of Wikipedia and Encyclopædia Britannica (Giles, 2005) - although not done by information scientists - contained an interview with an information scientist (Michael Twidale) and should be obvious to include in LIS.

It could be argued that library and information education should provide teaching in source criticism at least at the same level as is taught in Upper Secondary School (see Gudmundsson, 2007).

In LIS has the checklist approach often been used. A criticism of this approach is given by Meola (2004): "Chucking the checklist".

Libraries sometimes provide advices on how their users may evaluate sources.

The Library of Congress has a "Teaching with Primary Sources" (TPS) program.

Ethics


Source criticism is also about ethical behavior and culture. It is about a free press and an open society, including the protecting information sources from being persecuted (cf., Whistleblower
Whistleblower
A whistleblower is a person who tells the public or someone in authority about alleged dishonest or illegal activities occurring in a government department, a public or private organization, or a company...

).

Photos


Photos are often manipulated during wars and for political purposes. One well known example is Joseph Stalin's manipulation of a photograph from May 5, 1920 on which Stalin's predecessor Lenin held a speech for Soviet troops that Leon Trotsky attended. Stalin had later Trotsky retouched out of this photograph. (cf. King, 1997). A recent example is reported by Healy (2008) about President Kim Jong Il, North Korea.

Source criticism of Internet sources


Much interest in evaluating Internet sources (such as Wikipedia
Wikipedia
Wikipedia is a free, web-based, collaborative, multilingual encyclopedia project supported by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. Its 20 million articles have been written collaboratively by volunteers around the world. Almost all of its articles can be edited by anyone with access to the site,...

) is reflected in the scholarly literature of Library and information science
Library and information science
Library and information science is a merging of the two fields library science and information science...

 and in other fields. Mintz (2002) is an edited volume about this issue.

The term Internet epistemology is among newly suggested terms.

Examples of literature examining Internet sources include Chesney (2006), Fritch & Cromwell (2001), Leth & Thurén (2000) and Wilkinson, Bennett, & Oliver (1997).

Special topics such as the reliability of search engines and Wikipedia have their own investigations.
Source criticism of Wikipedia

The scientific journal Nature
Nature (journal)
Nature, first published on 4 November 1869, is ranked the world's most cited interdisciplinary scientific journal by the Science Edition of the 2010 Journal Citation Reports...

compared Wikipedia with Encyclopædia Britannica
Encyclopædia Britannica
The Encyclopædia Britannica , published by Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., is a general knowledge English-language encyclopaedia that is available in print, as a DVD, and on the Internet. It is written and continuously updated by about 100 full-time editors and more than 4,000 expert...

. (See Giles, 2005) Encyclopædia Britannica replied (2006). The German magazine Stern compared Wikipedia with leading German Encyclopedias (Sterns test of Wikipedia).

Source criticism in archaeology and history


"In history, the term historical method was first introduced in a systematic way in the sixteenth century by Jean Bodin in his treatise of source criticism, Methodus ad facilem historiarium cognitionem (1566). Characteristically, Bodin's treatise intended to establish the ways by which reliable knowledge of the past could be established by checking sources against one another and by so assessing the reliability of the information conveyed by them, relating them to the interests involved." (Lorenz, 2001, p. 6870).

As written above, modern source criticism in history is closely associated with the German historian Leopold von Ranke
Leopold von Ranke
Leopold von Ranke was a German historian, considered one of the founders of modern source-based history. Ranke set the standards for much of later historical writing, introducing such ideas as reliance on primary sources , an emphasis on narrative history and especially international politics .-...

 (1795–1886), who influenced historical methods on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, although in rather different ways. American history developed in a more empirist and antiphilosophical way (cf., Novick, 1988).

Two of the best-known rule books from History's childhood are Bernheim (1889) and Langlois & Seignobos (1898). These books provided a seven-step procedure (here quoted from Howell & Prevenier, 2001, p. 70-71):
  1. If the sources all agree about an event, historians can consider the event proved.
  2. However, majority does not rule; even if most sources relate events in one way, that version will not prevail unless it passes the test of critical textual analysis.
  3. The source whose account can be confirmed by reference to outside authorities in some of its parts can be trusted in its entirety if it is impossible similarly to confirm the entire text.
  4. When two sources disagree on a particular point, the historian will prefer the source with most "authority" - - i.e. the source created by the expert or by the eyewitness.
  5. Eyewittnesses are, in general, to be preferred, especially in circumstances where the ordinary observer could have accurately reported what transpired and, more specifically, when they deal with facts known by most contemporaries.
  6. If two independently created sources agree on a matter, the reliability of each is measureably enhanced.
  7. When two sources disagree (and there is no other means of evaluation), then historians take the source which seems to accord best with common sense.


Gudmundsson (2007, p. 38) writes: ”Source criticism should not totally dominate later courses. Other important perspectives, for example, philosophy of history/view of history, should not suffer by being neglected” (Translated by BH). This quote makes a distinction between source criticism on the one hand and historical philosophy on the other hand. However, different views of history and different specific theories about the field being studied may have important consequences for how sources are selected, interpreted and used. Feminist scholars may, for example, select sources made by women and may interprete sources from a feminist perspective. Epistemology should thus be considered a part of source criticism. It is in particular related to "tendency analysis".

In archaeology
Archaeology
Archaeology, or archeology , is the study of human society, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts and cultural landscapes...

 is radiocarbon dating
Radiocarbon dating
Radiocarbon dating is a radiometric dating method that uses the naturally occurring radioisotope carbon-14 to estimate the age of carbon-bearing materials up to about 58,000 to 62,000 years. Raw, i.e. uncalibrated, radiocarbon ages are usually reported in radiocarbon years "Before Present" ,...

 an important technique to establish the age of information sources. Methods of this kind were the ideal when history established itself as both a scientific discipline and as a profession based on "scientific" principles in the last part of the 1880s (although radiocarbon dating is a more recent example of such methods). The empiricist movement in history brought along both "source criticism" as a research method and also in many countries large scale publishing efforts to make valid editions of "source materials" such as important letters and official documents (e.g. as facsimile
Facsimile
A facsimile is a copy or reproduction of an old book, manuscript, map, art print, or other item of historical value that is as true to the original source as possible. It differs from other forms of reproduction by attempting to replicate the source as accurately as possible in terms of scale,...

s or transcription
Transcription (linguistics)
Transcription in the linguistic sense is the systematic representation of language in written form. The source can either be utterances or preexisting text in another writing system, although some linguists only consider the former as transcription.Transcription should not be confused with...

s).

Historiography
Historiography
Historiography refers either to the study of the history and methodology of history as a discipline, or to a body of historical work on a specialized topic...

 and Historical method
Historical method
Historical method comprises the techniques and guidelines by which historians use primary sources and other evidence to research and then to write histories in the form of accounts of the past. The question of the nature, and even the possibility, of a sound historical method is raised in the...

 include the study of the reliability of the sources used, in terms of, for example, authorship, credibility of the author, and the authenticity or corruption of the text.

Brundage (2007) and Howell & Prevenier (2001) provide introductions to the field.
  • Charter
    Charter
    A charter is the grant of authority or rights, stating that the granter formally recognizes the prerogative of the recipient to exercise the rights specified...

  • Chronology
    Chronology
    Chronology is the science of arranging events in their order of occurrence in time, such as the use of a timeline or sequence of events. It is also "the determination of the actual temporal sequence of past events".Chronology is part of periodization...

  • Codicology
    Codicology
    Codicology is the study of books as physical objects, especially manuscripts written on parchment in codex form...

  • Deed
    Deed
    A deed is any legal instrument in writing which passes, or affirms or confirms something which passes, an interest, right, or property and that is signed, attested, delivered, and in some jurisdictions sealed...

  • Diplomatics
    Diplomatics
    Diplomatics , or Diplomatic , is the study that revolves around documentation. It is a study that focuses on the analysis of document creation, its inner constitutions and form, the means of transmitting information, and the relationship documented facts have with their creator...

  • Heraldry
    Heraldry
    Heraldry is the profession, study, or art of creating, granting, and blazoning arms and ruling on questions of rank or protocol, as exercised by an officer of arms. Heraldry comes from Anglo-Norman herald, from the Germanic compound harja-waldaz, "army commander"...

  • Numismatics
    Numismatics
    Numismatics is the study or collection of currency, including coins, tokens, paper money, and related objects. While numismatists are often characterized as students or collectors of coins, the discipline also includes the broader study of money and other payment media used to resolve debts and the...

  • Papyrology
    Papyrology
    Papyrology is the study of ancient literature, correspondence, legal archives, etc., as preserved in manuscripts written on papyrus, the most common form of writing material in the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Greece, and Rome...

  • Sigillography
    Sigillography
    Sigillography is one of the auxiliary sciences of history. It refers to the study of seals attached to documents as a source of historical information. It concentrates on the legal and social meaning of seals, as well as the evolution of their design...


Source criticism in the arts



The responsibility of the connoisseur
Connoisseur
A connoisseur is a person who has a great deal of knowledge about the fine arts, cuisines, or an expert judge in matters of taste.Modern connoisseurship must be seen along with museums, art galleries and "the cult of originality"...

 is, besides appraising quality, attributing authorship, supplying a date and verifying authenticity of works of art. Many research methods are used. For example, detailed knowledge about the colors, papers, and other materials used by artists is systematically collected by the connoisseur. Not only from what factory a piece of paper was made and when it was made, but also where the artist bought it and how often and how much he used to buy. By combining many kinds of evidence in this way an empirical argument about the age of a given work may be established.

Source criticism in astronomy


Although the term "source criticism" is not used in this domain has the reliability of observers been carefully studied in association with the concept personal equation
Personal equation
The personal equation, in 19th- and early 20th-century science, referred to the idea that every individual observer had an inherent bias when it came to measurements and observations....

.

Source criticism in Biblical studies



Source criticism, as the term is used in biblical criticism
Biblical criticism
Biblical criticism is the scholarly "study and investigation of Biblical writings that seeks to make discerning judgments about these writings." It asks when and where a particular text originated; how, why, by whom, for whom, and in what circumstances it was produced; what influences were at work...

, refers to the attempt to establish the sources used by the author and/or redactor of the final text. The term "literary criticism" is occasionally used as a synonym.

Biblical source criticism originated in the 18th century with the work of Jean Astruc
Jean Astruc
Jean Astruc was a professor of medicine at Montpellier and Paris, who wrote the first great treatise on syphilis and venereal diseases, and also, with a small anonymously published book, played a fundamental part in the origins of critical textual analysis of works of scripture...

, who adapted the methods already developed for investigating the texts of Classical antiquity (Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

's Iliad
Iliad
The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles...

 in particular) to his own investigation into the sources of the Book of Genesis. It was subsequently considerably developed by German scholars in what was known as "the Higher Criticism", a term no longer in widespread use. The ultimate aim of these scholars was to reconstruct the history of the biblical text, as well as the religious history of ancient Israel.

Related to Source Criticism is Redaction Criticism
Redaction criticism
Redaction criticism, also called Redaktionsgeschichte, Kompositionsgeschichte, or Redaktionstheologie, is a critical method for the study of Bible texts. Redaction criticism regards the author of the text as editor of his or her source material...

 which seeks to determine how and why the redactor (editor) put the sources together the way he did. Also related is form criticism
Form criticism
Form criticism is a method of biblical criticism that classifies units of scripture by literary pattern and that attempts to trace each type to its period of oral transmission. Form criticism seeks to determine a unit's original form and the historical context of the literary tradition. Hermann...

 and tradition history
Tradition history
Tradition history or criticism is a methodology of Biblical criticism that was developed by Hermann Gunkel. Tradition history seeks to analyze biblical literature in terms of the process by which biblical traditions passed from stage to stage into their final form, especially how they passed from...

 which try to reconstruct the oral prehistory behind the identified written sources.

Source criticism in journalism


Journalists often work with strong time pressure and have access to only a limited number of information source
Information source
"Source" means data that originates from either primary of secondary source. An information source is a source of information for somebody, i.e. anything that might inform a person about something or provide knowledge to somebody. Information sources may be observations, people, speeches,...

s such as news bureau
News bureau
A News bureau is an office for gathering or distributing news. Similar terms are used for specialized bureaus, often to indicate geographic location or scope of coverage: a ‘Tokyo bureau’ refers to a given news operation's office in Tokyo; foreign bureau is a generic term for a news office set up...

s, persons which may be interviewed, newspaper
Newspaper
A newspaper is a scheduled publication containing news of current events, informative articles, diverse features and advertising. It usually is printed on relatively inexpensive, low-grade paper such as newsprint. By 2007, there were 6580 daily newspapers in the world selling 395 million copies a...

s, journals
Academic journal
An academic journal is a peer-reviewed periodical in which scholarship relating to a particular academic discipline is published. Academic journals serve as forums for the introduction and presentation for scrutiny of new research, and the critique of existing research...

 and so on (see journalism sourcing
Journalism sourcing
In journalism, a source is a person, publication, or other record or document that gives timely information. Outside journalism, sources are sometimes known as "news sources"...

). Journalists' possibility for conducting serious source criticism is thus limited compared to, for example, historians' possibilities.

Source criticism in legal studies


The most important legal sources are created by parliaments, governments, courts, and legal researchers. They may be written or unformal and based on established practices.

In assessing the relative value of different kinds of information sources and evidence are court decisions always decisive — directly or indirectly. The discussion of the relevance and importance of kinds of sources must be seen as what kind of evidence is most important in court rooms, both in a descriptive way (what do courtrooms actually use) and in a normative way (what should courtrooms ideally use). Although legal information is mostly used outside courtrooms, its relevance and validity is tested by its use in courtrooms or as thought esperiments: What would be the case if tried in court.

Different views concerning the quality of different sources is related to different legal philosophies: Legal positivism
Legal positivism
Legal positivism is a school of thought of philosophy of law and jurisprudence, largely developed by nineteenth-century legal thinkers such as Jeremy Bentham and John Austin. However, the most prominent figure in the history of legal positivism is H.L.A...

 is the view that the text of the law should be considered in isolation, while legal realism
Legal realism
Legal realism is a school of legal philosophy that is generally associated with the culmination of the early-twentieth century attack on the orthodox claims of late-nineteenth-century classical legal thought in the United States...

, interpretivism (legal), critical legal studies
Critical legal studies
Critical legal studies is a movement in legal thought that applied methods similar to those of critical theory to law. The abbreviations "CLS" and "Crit" are sometimes used to refer to the movement and its adherents....

 and feminist legal criticism interprets the law on a broader cultural basis.

Source criticism in medicine


In medicine there is today a strong school of thought termed "evidence based medicine" (EBM). Here have very explicit criteria been developed on how to evaluate documents, including a hierarchy of evidence
Hierarchy of evidence
Evidence hierarchies reflect the relative authority of various types of biomedical research. Although there is no single, universally-accepted hierarchy of evidence, there is broad agreement on the relative strength of the principal types of research...

. EMB may thus be seen as a theory about source evaluation in medicine (a theory connected with empiricism
Empiricism
Empiricism is a theory of knowledge that asserts that knowledge comes only or primarily via sensory experience. One of several views of epistemology, the study of human knowledge, along with rationalism, idealism and historicism, empiricism emphasizes the role of experience and evidence,...

).

Riegelman (2004) Studying a Study and Testing a Test: How to Read the Medical Evidence. Is a general text about critical reading
Critical reading
Critical reading is the opposite of naivety in reading. It is a form of skepticism that does not take a text at face value, but involves an examination of claims put forward in the text as well as implicit bias in the texts framing and selection of the information presented...

 in medicine.

See also


  • Argumentation theory
    Argumentation theory
    Argumentation theory, or argumentation, is the interdisciplinary study of how humans should, can, and do reach conclusions through logical reasoning, that is, claims based, soundly or not, on premises. It includes the arts and sciences of civil debate, dialogue, conversation, and persuasion...

  • Bias
    Bias
    Bias is an inclination to present or hold a partial perspective at the expense of alternatives. Bias can come in many forms.-In judgement and decision making:...

  • Deception
    Deception
    Deception, beguilement, deceit, bluff, mystification, bad faith, and subterfuge are acts to propagate beliefs that are not true, or not the whole truth . Deception can involve dissimulation, propaganda, and sleight of hand. It can employ distraction, camouflage or concealment...

  • Fabrication (science)
    Fabrication (science)
    Fabrication, in the context of scientific inquiry and academic research, refers to the act of intentionally falsifying research results, such as reported in a journal article. Fabrication is considered a form of scientific misconduct, and is regarded as highly unethical...

  • Exegesis
    Exegesis
    Exegesis is a critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially a religious text. Traditionally the term was used primarily for exegesis of the Bible; however, in contemporary usage it has broadened to mean a critical explanation of any text, and the term "Biblical exegesis" is used...


  • False document
    False document
    A false document is a literary technique employed to create verisimilitude in a work of fiction. By inventing and inserting documents that appear to be factual, an author tries to create a sense of authenticity beyond the normal and expected suspension of disbelief for a work of art...

  • Fraud
    Fraud
    In criminal law, a fraud is an intentional deception made for personal gain or to damage another individual; the related adjective is fraudulent. The specific legal definition varies by legal jurisdiction. Fraud is a crime, and also a civil law violation...

  • Plagiarism
    Plagiarism
    Plagiarism is defined in dictionaries as the "wrongful appropriation," "close imitation," or "purloining and publication" of another author's "language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions," and the representation of them as one's own original work, but the notion remains problematic with nebulous...

  • Psychological warfare
    Psychological warfare
    Psychological warfare , or the basic aspects of modern psychological operations , have been known by many other names or terms, including Psy Ops, Political Warfare, “Hearts and Minds,” and Propaganda...

  • Scholarly method
    Scholarly method
    Scholarly method or scholarship is the body of principles and practices used by scholars to make their claims about the world as valid and trustworthy as possible, and to make them known to the scholarly public.-Methods:...



  • Scientific misconduct
    Scientific misconduct
    Scientific misconduct is the violation of the standard codes of scholarly conduct and ethical behavior in professional scientific research. A Lancet review on Handling of Scientific Misconduct in Scandinavian countries provides the following sample definitions: *Danish definition: "Intention or...

  • Source criticism (Biblical studies)
    Source criticism (Biblical studies)
    Source criticism, as the term is used in biblical criticism, refers to the attempt to establish the sources used by the author and/or redactor of the final text...

  • Whistleblower
    Whistleblower
    A whistleblower is a person who tells the public or someone in authority about alleged dishonest or illegal activities occurring in a government department, a public or private organization, or a company...



Literature and references



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    Vetus Testamentum is an academic journal covering various aspects of the Old Testament....

    , Volume 33, Number 4, 483–488.
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    Journal for the Study of the Old Testament
    The Journal for the Study of the Old Testament is a peer-reviewed academic journal that publishes papers five times a year in the field of Biblical Studies. The journal's editors are John Jarick and Keith Whitelam...

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External links