QUESTIONS - tune into the problem, identify the issue
The big questions to ask are likely to be:
- what were the people like who founded white settlement in Australia two hundred years ago?
- does this convict past influence life today?
ANSWERS - think of possible answers, make a theory or a hypothesis
The questions we choose to ask will usually be based on a theory we are beginning to construct
in our mind. For example, we might have a theory that the answer to the above question is that
convicts were dangerous criminals, so specific questions might include:
- How many convicts were convicted for murder?
- How many convicts were transported for life?
- How many convicts were repeat offenders?
FIND OUT - gather data and evidence[Top]
To answer the questions, we need to search for evidence that backs up our theories. Only some
of this evidence can be found by searching the database as the database is a heavily edited summary
of a number of primary source documents. Further evidence will be found in books and other resources.
For example the third question above cannot be answered by the Database.
SORT OUT - process and analyse your evidence[Top]
In real life evidence is often incomplete, particularly with historical data. It is difficult
to build up a picture of what actually happened and our view of the data may be coloured by our own
modern-day prejudices. Beware also of the prejudices of other historians. For example, how have
female convicts been described by male historians? How have Aboriginal Australians been described
by other Australians?
JUDGE - draw conclusions - what does the data tell us?[Top]
After thinking about evidence carefully, we need to make the best judgement we can make under the
circumstances. However all judgements must be argued from the available evidence and any conjectures
must be clearly labelled as such.
REVIEW - was it all worth it? was there a better question we could ask?
At all stages in the process we should sit back and reflect on what we've been doing, reviewing
whether there might be a better theory to match our evidence or whether we have enough evidence to
make a judgement. For example, does our theory still hold that convicts were dangerous criminals if
our search of the database finds no murderers and very few lifers?
If our evidence is not supporting our theory, we may need to start all over again, in a continuing
search for the "truth".