Tips For Writing Paper 1 Documents Tests
You have one hour to complete the test and of all the IB history tests Paper 1 is the most demanding in terms of
QUESTION ONE - Part A (This question is divided into two sections “a” and “b”. You should only dedicate 10
minutes to all of question one, both parts “a” and “b”):
This is usually a "why" question worth three marks. Correspondingly, you should make sure you offer three
reasons that answer the “why” question from the document you have been asked to examine.
Marks are awarded according to the extent to which you can put into your own words the answers to the
question. This is a basic comprehension question. They are asking you to state, in your own words, three
things from the document(s) the question pertains to.
You should separate each of your three responses by leaving a line between each but should still state your
answer in the form of a sentence. This way the marker sees clearly that you have noted three different points.
This can potentially be an easy three marks but you have to note three things and attempt to avoid duplication
(saying basically the same thing in two different ways).
QUESTION ONE - Part B:
There usually is a "message" question that often (but not always) refers to an illustration (in many cases a
photograph or political cartoon, though recently there have been charts or statistics).
If it is an illustration you need to give the overall message (Over 22, 000 Japanese were forcibly removed
from the coast of British Columbia by the Canadian government).
You also need to prove it by DESCRIBING the illustration or cartoon (we know this because an RCMP
officer with “Canada” on his hat is pulling Japanese caricatures away from a sign titled “British Columbia
Coast” all the while counting beyond 22 000). You can also quote any caption or sentences that may be part
of the image to demonstrate your understanding of the message.
Two marks are awarded for your response to this question. The two questions the marker usually asks is: “did
they provide a correct response as to what the message of the source is?” and “did they explain how the
message was communicated?” If their answer is “yes” to both of the questions, you should expect to receive
two marks for this part of the test.
QUESTION TWO (you should only dedicate 10-15 minutes to this question)
This question is worth 6 marks, and often calls for you to compare and contrast, or to prove something from
one source by reference to others.
If it is compare and contrast question, show the marker exactly how the two are the same by providing a short
quote with a brief explanation of the quote (both felt the internment of the Japanese was a bad thing). Next,
you will need to show how they are different. Again, you will do this by providing a short quote with a brief
explanation (although internment was distasteful, one document felt it was necessary “Canadians on the
Pacific are entitled to and insist on getting complete protection from treachery, protection from being stabbed
in the back” (Doc B)). While the second document found it to be unnecessary and unacceptable, "It's mostly
racial prejudice, and jealousy” (Doc D)). Again, make sure that when offering quotes (and you likely should)
that you explain the quotes in the context of the question being asked, instead of just laying the quotes out
there for the marker and expecting him or her to interpret the reason you offered the quote – quotes need
short, succinct explanations! You need to demonstrate that you are answering the question.
When presenting your compare and contrast, separate each comparison and each contrast with a space
(normally expect to present 1 or 2 comparisons and 1 or 2 contrasts – never expect to provide more than a
total of three comparisons and contrasts). Never provide only contrasts or comparisons you must do at least
one of each.
The other type of question involves proving something from one source by reference to one or two other
If you are proving something from one source by reference to others you need to be very clear. You should
make two or three major comparisons (use major paragraph breaks to clearly indicate three separate points).
Explain how one document (Document “D” in the example below) supports what is said in another document
(Document “B” in the example below). Just like the compare and contrast you need to use a short quote and
an explanation of the quote. It should look something like this: Document “B” says, “place quote here” by this
it means “place explanation here”. Document “D” supports this when it says, “place quote here” this supports
what is said in Document “B” because, “place explanation of how Document D supports Document B here”.
After you have done this once you should likely do it one or two more times in order to attain full marks.
A typical mistake on this question is describe a number of issues from one document and then attempt to
compare all of those issues with the second document. This approach is confusing for the marking and is not
an effective method of comparing documents; you will not receive a good mark if you choose to take this
QUESTION THREE (you should only dedicate 15 minutes to this question)
This is the Origin, Purpose, Value and Limitation (OPVL) question. You need to do an OPVL for each source
you are asked to discuss. Do each one separately. For example, do your OPVL for Source A, then an OPVL
for Source C. UNDERLINE of the terms to ensure they have been discussed.
The following are examples of possible OPVL responses and explanations as to how they were done.
“The origin of source D is a diary (A Child in Prison Camp) written by a prisoner, Shizuye Takashima, in
1971, it is a primary source.” Note the three essential features of developing your origin response. 1. The
name and type of document. 2. By whom it was written. 3. Whether or not it is a primary or secondary
“Its purpose was to record her thoughts about all the events occurring around her at that time. She probably
wanted to read it herself when she got older, or have her family read it, or maybe even have it published some
day.” Here you see a full explanation of all the possible purposes of a source of this type. You will note that
its purpose for a historian has not been discussed; instead all that is stated is purpose behind why an individual
may create a diary.
When discussing the values and limitations of a document you are always doing so from the perspective of a
historian studying the topic of the documents test.
“Its value is that she was an eyewitness to the events she is describing and people don't generally lie to
themselves in their diaries. A diary is especially valuable to a historian studying Japanese Internment because
you get a personal perspective on how internment would have affected a Canadian of Japanese origin and
“The limitation to a person studying Japanese Internment is that she was only one person so you don‟t have
the perspective of all Internees or of government officials. Being a prisoner, she obviously didn't have access
to important people like Mackenzie King and/or other government documents surrounding the internment
issue. So, if one were attempting to assess the decision to intern the Japanese, the diary of a survivor would
obviously provide a very one-sided perspective on the issue; she would not have given any positive rationale
for the internment. As well, there is no perspective. A survivor is very close to the event and fails to provide
any background into the historiographical debate regarding the justification (or lack thereof) of Japanese
The most important thing to remember is you are examining the document for its value and limitation to YOU
as a historian NOT to the people during the time in which the document was compiled. You wouldn‟t describe
the value of the diary to the woman writing the diary or in the people listening to a speech. Also, generic
values and limitations will not result in full marks. Instead, you must explain why it is important in studying
the topic being referenced (Japanese Internment in the case of our example).
Marks are usually divided up by giving a half mark for a good discussion of the origin of each document for a
total of one mark for the origin of both documents. Also, a half mark is given for a good discussion of the
purpose of each document for a total of one mark for the purpose of both documents. One mark is given for
assessing the value of each document for a total of two marks. Also, one mark is given for assessing the
limitation of each document for a total of two marks. However, this should only be viewed as a guide. The
OPVL section is given an overall mark out of six and not broken down as I have it. See the chart below for
typical OPVL responses. Remember in IB half marks are never awarded.
A Guide to Doing OPVL on Documents Tests
Type of Origin Purpose Value Limitation
Document All excerpts will be limited in that you
are only seeing a small part of a larger
field of study.
Diary/ Personal Primary document. To record personal Eyewitness to events and Opinion will be skewed by limited
Journal Written by the perspective of usually written personal perspective, i.e. time to
author for the events. Sometimes immediately or shortly reflect on events and personal
author. for the purpose of after they occurred. involvement in events (bias). If
publication. Authors unlikely to lie. intended for publication the author
may adjust their reflection
accordingly. No historiography.
Reminis cence/ Primary document. To offer an Eyewitness account that Length of time between events and
Biography A firsthand written eyewitness offers personal insight recollection can lead to loss of
account of events perspective on an (they were there) and information or details being altered.
or a written record event. awareness of many details Because it is intended for publication
based on a set of of the event. the author may adjust their reflection
interviews. accordingly. No historiography.
Academic Secondary To educate This is an expert opinion Usually not an eyewitness, author can
M agazine/Journal/ Document. Usually colleagues, derived through many err deliberately or accidentally, not
Book by an expert (often students and the years of primary document very useful for a quick overview since
academic public. research in archives and a analysis is usually in great detail. What
historian). thorough knowledge of the historian believes (their school of
secondary works on the thought) will impact their perspective
topic. Their credentials (if resulting in bias. Where the historian is
you are familiar with from will impact their perspective.
them) can also be a value.
General Text Secondary To educate Offers quick overview for Usually not an expert on every topic in
Document. Usually students and students studying the the text so there are often gaps and
written by a panel possibly the topic. This is an opinion errors. Often not an eyewitness. Where
of experts (often public. by a historian with the historian is from will impact their
academic expertise in the subject perspective. What the historian
historians) on the area, although not believes (their school of thought) will
topic. necessarily all the topics. impact their perspective resulting in
Contains information bias. Limited historiography.
derived from primary
research and knowledge of
secondary works on the
Cartoon Primary Document. To educate, Offers at least one person's Only one person‟s view on the politics
Done by the artist entertain, and often perspective on issue of the of the day. Often exaggeration used for
for public to sell newspapers time. Offers insight to the comic effect. M eaning can be hidden
consumption at the or journals. political climate of the by many of the subtleties of the
time day. artwork itself or the era that it was
written in. No historiography.
Speech Primary Document To orally Offers the official view of M ay not be the real views of speaker
communicate a the speaker. as speeches are designed to sway
message to a given opinion. M issing visual and oral cu es
audience. such as body language, intonation,
irony, sarcasm, etc. that you are unable
to appreciate in written form. No
Internal M emo Primary Document Private, written It is an official view like a One person‟s perspective. Also, an
communication speech but it often “insiders” view meaning that there is
between officials comprises private thoughts an assumed knowledge on the part of
often in a as well. In some cases can the reader. M emo could be used as a
government or reveal information that tool of persuasion rather than a tool of
business setting. was not originally information limiting its historical
intended for public usefulness. No historiography
This question is worth eight marks so spend the most time on this question. I recommend 20-25
To start I would recommend that you have a two sentence intro that includes a thesis statement that
responds to the question being asked (not a thesis question, a STATEMENT , you are supposed to be
answering a question). You may leave room for this and write your „answer‟ in after you have
completed the bulk of your response if you feel unsure as to how your response is likely to develop.
However, it would be best practice to have this figured out well before you start writing. Developing
a short outline on scrap paper or the back of the test where you jot down a few of points you are
going to use to answer the question would be helpful here. Remember, time is limited an
introduction longer than three sentences is too long.
Next, you should develop a paragraph where almost every source is mentioned and mined for
information that supports the thesis up top. Feel free to bunch a few sources together if they agree
(“Both Source A and B show that the government was in favour of interning the Japanese…”). Offer
brief quotations to support what you are saying, but do not let the quotations stand alone. They need
to be explained in a way that shows how they are supporting your thesis/answering the question
being asked. Whether you are summarizing a document or using a quote, source you‟re the
information you are providing regularly so the marker knows this information is from the documents
and that you are using them well.
Finally, write a large paragraph that also answers the question/supports your thesis. Mention books,
articles, and documentaries we have used in the study of this topic. Name names (both historical
characters and authors), offer dates, numbers, quotes, etc. to prove you really know your stuff.
Again, all of this information needs to be used in concert with your response to the
question/supporting your thesis statement. Do not do an information dump. Instead, use the
information to answer the question. If there is time, write a one sentence conclusion that summa rizes
your point of view. If you run out of time, write down as much as you can, in point form, regarding
what you know about the question being asked. You are likely to pick up a mark, maybe two, by
A word of caution. This approach of splitting up the response into a “documents” section and a
“personal knowledge” section is only a suggestion. Many students prefer to incorporate their own
knowledge of the topic in with the information from the documents. As you will note below, you
must demonstrate use of both the documents and personal knowledge and the method noted above is
the clearest way to demonstrate that you have done both. That being said, I leave the choice up to
you, I have seen both methods used very effectively.
It is important to note that this question is worth 8 marks. The IB will not allocate a mark any higher
than a five out of eight (usually lower) if you use only the documents or use only your own
knowledge. If you hope to achieve a grade that is higher than five on this question you need to use
both the documents and your own knowledge.
Document Test: Japanese Internment
Refer to the following documents and answer all the questions listed below
Sources in this booklet have been edited: word additions or explanations are shown in square
brackets [ ]; substantive deletions of text are indicated by ellipses in square brackets […]; minor
changes are not indicated.
1. (a) Why, according to Source B, were the Japanese interned? [3 marks]
(b) What message is being conveyed in Source E? [2 marks]
2. In what ways do the views expressed in Source B (and maybe Source C) support the
conclusions drawn in Source D? [6 marks]
Compare and contrast the views regarding Japanese Internment in Sources B and D. [6 marks]
3. With reference to the origin and purpose, assess the value and limitations of Sources A and C
for historians studying Japanese Internment. [6 marks]
4. Using these sources and your own knowledge, explain to what extent you agree with the
statement, “The internment of Japanese Canadians was an unjustified act by the Canadian
government.” [8 marks]
*Note: you will not be given the option of both on a test; instead I am providing an example of the
two ways in which question 2 is usually posed.
In Ottawa, the RCMP and military believed that British Columbia‟s Japanese Canadians posed little
threat to security, but racist mood gathered momentum within the province. There was a fear of
invasion…. Some families were divided, with the men sent to work camps while women and
children were sent to defunct mining towns in the province‟s interior.
- Excerpt from Canada: A People’s History Volume 2, by Don Gillmor (2001)
... Canadians on the Pacific are entitled to and insist on getting complete protection from treachery,
protection from being stabbed in the back.. . We have at least 24 000 of Japanese origin in our
province, all in the coastal area - fishermen, men working in our woods in the lumbering industry,
men farming on both sides of the great Fraser River Valley, which means that they are astride both
of our transcontinental lines. There has been treachery elsewhere from Japanese in this war, and we
have no reason to hope that there will be none in British Columbia...if we were Canadians in Japan,
we might feel much the same; we would be only too willing to assist British troops should they
attempt to land on the Japanese coast. The only complete protection we can have from this danger is
to remove the Japanese population from the province...
- Howard C. Green, MP for Vancouver South (January 24, 1942)
...a very great problem to move the Japanese and particularly to deal with the ones who are
naturalized Canadians or Canadian born.. .there is every possibility of riots. Once that occurs, there
will be repercussions in the Far East against our prisoners. Public prejudice is so strong in B.C. that
it is going to be difficult to control the situation; also moving men to camps at this time of year is
very difficult indeed. I did my best to get decisions from the Cabinet and matters sufficiently
advanced to be prepared for afternoon questions [in the House of Commons].
- Excerpt from the diary of Prime Minister Mackenzie King (February 19, 1942)
I often wonder about this war. The Japanese are my father's and mother's people. Strange to be
fighting them. My father's nephews are all in the army. We do not receive any letters from our
uncles and aunts in Japan and we do not know if they are alive or not. Father does not speak of them
much. I ask father, "Why are we fighting?" "For land and other things," father replies. "This is why
we are here." "But I'm not Japanese, like you. I was born here. So were you." I look at Yuki. She
says, "That's nothing - a Jap is a Jap, whether you're born here or not!" "Even if I change my
name?" "Yes, you look oriental, you're a threat." "A threat? Why?" "God only knows!" Yuki
replies. "It's mostly racial prejudice, and jealousy. Remember we had cleared the best land all along
the Fraser Valley. Good fisherman. This causes envy, so better to kick us out. The damn war is just
an excuse. Dad knows. The West Coast people never liked the Orientals. "Yellow Peril" is what
they call us."
I look at father. "Yuki is speaking the truth," he says. "This is why we had better return to
Japan when we can." Yuki looks surprised. "Return to Japan? I don't want to go. What would I do
there?" Father looks at us. "Would you rather stay in camps? Be treated like dogs? You know you
could never get a decent job in Vancouver. Look at cousin Robert, a university graduate, an honors
student. No one would hire him. So he's a gardener, just like me. Is this what you want? To be
always a third-class citizen? I mind. I didn't come to this country for this kind of treatment.
Democracy! I'm a Canadian. I have to pay all the taxes, but I have never been allowed to vote. Even
now, here, they took our land, our houses, our children, everything. We are their enemies. Don't you
understand? I have no desire to be part of this country. There is no future for you here either."
- Excerpt from A Child in Prison Camp, by Shizuye Takashima (1971)