In History at school we learnt the PANDA method to analyse sources, to test for bias and authenticity.

Purpose - What is the purpose for which the source was created? Was it to convert people to a specific way of thinking?

Author - What background is the author from? Could there be possible bias from the authors viewpoint as a result of their circumstances?

Nature - What form is the source in? (e.g. poster, map, photo, etc)

Date - When was it produced? Is it primary or secondary?

Audience - Who is the intended audience? (e.g. Aryans/Jews/male/female/etc)?

What are the advantages/shortcomings of this method as a quick & dirty guideline for analysis of sources?

  • A poll of whether anyone has heard of it, you could probably answer yourself with a web search. Whether the method is a good one or has weaknesses is probably a matter of opinion. Aug 20, 2014 at 13:52
  • The "method" itself is naive because it supposes there are "biased" audiences and "objective" ones. In reality ALL source are biased. When you take a picture of a statue you take it from one angle, someone else takes it from another. To reconstruct the statue you need to have many photographs taken from all different angles. Aug 20, 2014 at 13:57
  • A web search on the method turns up no hits, so it is safe to assume nobody knows of the method except your teacher and his/her students. He/she is obviously a pretty bad teacher or they would have taught you how to do this for yourself. Aug 20, 2014 at 14:01
  • My web searches mostly turned up actual hits for Pandas. This might be a situation where search engines get too swamped with irrelevant hits to be helpful (could be worse. At least he didn't learn the "grumpy C.A.T. method"...)
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 20, 2014 at 14:19
  • 3
    I think this has value on a Q&A site. I might have formatted it as a Q and then answered my own question, but I think it has value. I'm going to offer an edit to address some of the comments.
    – MCW
    Aug 20, 2014 at 14:24

1 Answer 1


As a community wiki answer:

  1. Authorial ignorance. It doesn't test the scope of knowledge of the author
  2. Authorial context. Similar texts produced in the similar time.
  3. General source context.
  4. Survival rate. Did only controversial idiocy survive in the libraries. Did this survive monastery burning because it was being used to insulate a bamboo wall?
  5. Reception context at time of authoring. Did everyone know that "relocated to the East" meant burnt in an execution camp.
  6. Internal purposes. Documents written for internal consumption (beer barrel receipts) are often more trustworthy about what they lie about than documents written for external consumption (all our monks are sober, the broadsheet bill)
  7. Transmission of the text. Forgery, reinvention, copying, selection for survival
  8. Language of text. SMSes from protestors in London are not going to sound like, "I have found a great and not very well protected big screen television store here at grid ref follow."
  9. Internal consistency, is this actually a single text? Is it a text of texts, is it a chapbook, Fred's favourite quotes, a hypertext of biblical references?
  10. Modern presentation of the text, is this presented in an undergraduate or highschool textbook as illustrative? Why? Which sources were excluded? Is it actually representative, or atypical?

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