Component 3: Historical investigation (non-exam assessment) (A-level only)
Purpose of the Historical investigation
The purpose of the Historical Investigation is to enable students to develop the skills, knowledge and historical understanding acquired through the study of the examined components of the specification.
Through undertaking the Historical Investigation students will develop an enhanced understanding of the nature and purpose of history as a discipline and how historians work.The Historical Investigation contributes towards meeting the aims and objectives of the A-level specification. In particular it encourages students to:
- ask relevant and significant questions about the past and undertake research
- develop as independent learners and critical and reflective thinkers
- acquire an understanding of the nature of historical study
- organise and communicate their knowledge and understanding in a piece of sustained writing
Students will be required to submit a Historical Investigation based on a development or issue which has been subject to different historical interpretations. The Historical Investigation must:
- be independently researched and written by the student
- be presented in the form of a piece of extended writing of between 3000 and 3500 words in length
- draw upon the student's investigation of sources (both primary and secondary) which relate to the development or issue chosen and the differing interpretations that have been placed on this
- place the issue to be investigated within a context of approximately 100 years
- be an issue which does not duplicate the content of Components 1 and 2.
The Historical Investigation must be supervised in accordance with the requirements of Section 5.1 of this specification.
The centre must complete a non-examined assessment (NEA) title approval form no later than 20 October in the year before the intended completion of the A-level course. The form must detail the title and date range of the proposed historical investigation for each student. The teacher must state which examined components will be studied. This form must be submitted to AQA for review. AQA will check that the proposed historical investigation title, when combined with the examined components, meets the following requirements:
- the proposed title is set in the context of approximately 100 years
- there is no overlap with the content of the options studied for the examined components
- all three components together cover a chronological range of at least 200 years
AQA will inform the centre if any historical investigation title does not meet the requirements and the focus for the non-examined assessment will need to be changed.
Failure to comply with these requirements will invalidate the student’s entry and no A-level result will be issued.
It is therefore vital that the teacher ensures that all requirements are met. If a student changes their historical investigation title, a new form should be completed.
On completion of the NEA, each student must also complete a Candidate Record Form (CRF) detailing the options studied for the examined components. The student must sign this form. The teacher must counter sign the CRF and this declaration will confirm that the historical investigation complies with the NEA title approval form and has adhered to all requirements.
The CRF must be sent to the moderator at the same time as marks for the NEA are submitted. The moderator will check that all course requirements have been met.
If the requirements have not been met, then the entry will be invalid and no result issued.
Copies of all the documentation, including the NEA proposal form and guidance on submission procedures are available from the AQA website at www.aqa.org.uk/history
Further guidance is available from the History subject team: email@example.com
Choice of issue and question to be studied
Students will be required to identify an issue or topic they wish to study and develop a question from this issue or topic as the focus of the Historical Investigation. The issue or topic to be studied and the question which stems from it must place the issue or topic in the context of approximately 100 years of history. The question could be based on British history or non-British history or could be a multi-country issue. However, it must not duplicate content studied in Components 1 and 2.
The Historical Investigation could identify an issue and a related question which traces a development over approximately 100 years. Alternatively, it could focus on a narrower issue, but place it the context of approximately 100 years.Examples of possible approaches:
- A broad issue and related question which analyses its development over approximately 100 years, for example: assessing how Puritanism changed during the Seventeenth Century; or assessing the extent to which the condition of the Russian peasant improved over the period 1850–1950
- A more specific issue in the context of approximately 100 years, for example: assessing the extent to which the Glorious Revolution successfully settled relations between Crown and Parliament in the context of the Stuart period; or assessing the extent to which Tsar Nicholas I changed the nature of Tsarist rule set against the period of Catherine the Great, Alexander and Nicholas I.
Issues which relate to international, national or local developments are appropriate, as are investigations which adopt specific historical perspectives such as cultural, social or technological.
However, in choosing the issue, students need to take the following into account:
- Is there a range of primary sources and primary material available to support individual investigation?
- Is the issue and related question one which has promoted debate and differences of interpretation amongst historians?
When framing the question to be answered, students must ensure that it enables them to demonstrate skills of historical analysis, evaluation and judgement, to appraise the views of historians and to evaluate primary sources.
Students are advised to use the type of question formulations seen in examinations such as the use of questions which begin ‘To what extent’ or a quotation in the form of a judgement followed by ‘Assess the validity of this view’.
The A-level subject content for history requires that students carry out a Historical Investigation that is independently researched. It is acceptable that students within a centre base their Historical Investigations around the same topic. However, the essential pre-requisite of non-exam assessment and the principal purpose of the Historical Investigation both require that the Historical Investigation is the work of individual students each developing a question to investigate and each evaluating individually, primary sources and historical interpretations. Where students in a centre are studying a similar topic or topics, there may be only a limited number of primary sources and, more so, a limited number of historical interpretations. However, the centre must ensure that students assess and evaluate sources individually, even where sources used are similar. It is not permitted for centres to direct students to the same sources as this fundamentally undermines the need for the Historical Investigation to be the work of an individual student.
Further guidance and exemplar material are available via the AQA website.
The skills and qualities to be demonstrated and assessed
The skills and qualities of all three Assessment Objectives must be demonstrated in the Historical Investigation. These are:
AO1: demonstrate, organise and communicate knowledge and understanding to analyse and evaluate the key features related to the periods studied, making substantiated judgements and exploring concepts, as relevant, of cause, consequence, change, continuity, similarity, difference and significance.
AO2: analyse and evaluate appropriate source material, primary and/or contemporary to the period, within the historical context.
AO3: analyse and evaluate, in relation to the historical context, different ways in which aspects of the past have been interpreted.
The task required of students in responding to AO3 will be different from that in the examined components in that students will be expected to:
- show an understanding of the limitations placed on historians
- show an understanding of the significance of the time and/or context in which an historian writes
- compare and evaluate differing historical interpretations.
Students must base their analysis and evaluation of historical interpretations on the work of academic historians. It is not acceptable that the analysis and evaluation is based on textbook historians or course books.
Students are expected to use short quotations, paraphrase and/or footnotes to show the source of their interpretations. Lengthy extracts are not required.
In developing their response to a chosen issue to investigate, students are expected to consult a range of resources, which may include textbooks, course books and work of academic historians. Within the Historical Investigation, however, there must be explicit analysis and evaluation of two differing interpretations by academic historians where students analyse and evaluate the differences between the interpretations, show an awareness of the time and/or context of the interpretations and demonstrate an understanding of the limitations placed on historians.
The Historical Investigation must be written with the qualities of all three objectives integrated within the body of the work. For example, students will analyse, evaluate and reach judgements about the question chosen (AO1) and within this analysis and evaluation, appraise the views of historians (AO3) and analyse and evaluate primary source material and the extent to which it is useful in supporting arguments or conclusions (AO2).
Completion of the Historical investigation
The Investigation should be completed in approximately 3000-3500 words, excluding bibliography and footnotes. However, there is no penalty for failure to adhere to these guidelines, although students who produce overlong pieces will disadvantage themselves in AO1, by demonstrating poor organisational skills.
The Investigation must contain an evaluation of at least three primary sources. At least two different types of primary source should be evaluated. These may be different types of written primary sources, for example: official publications; reports; diaries; speeches; letters; chronicles; observations of elite or ‘ordinary’ people (from the inside or from the outside). Other appropriate sources may include artefacts, archaeological or visual sources.
The Investigation must also demonstrate an understanding of differing interpretations presented by two academic historians about the issue.
Students are advised to avoid extensive, verbatim copying from sources and to ensure that the Investigation is written in their own words. Extensive verbatim copying can lead to malpractice.
The use of footnotes is strongly advised in order to demonstrate the range of evidence consulted and validate the bibliography. Additionally, footnotes alleviate concerns about plagiarism, as the source of comments, views, detail or others' judgements is acknowledged. Skill in the use of footnotes is also highly valued by Higher Education. A bibliography should be provided, listing the sources that have been consulted.
The role of the teacher
Teachers have a number of significant roles:
- to explain the requirements of the Historical Investigation to students
- to ensure that students do not duplicate content already covered in Components 1 and 2 and to ensure that the NEA title which forms the focus of the Historical Investigation is placed in the context of approximately 100 years
- to provide appropriate supervision of students, offering general guidance about the issue and question chosen for investigation
- to monitor the progress of the Investigation
- to submit to AQA, by 20 October in the year before intended A-level certification, an NEA title approval form. This form will require that options from Components 1 and 2 are identified, along with the title of Component 3 and its chronological range for each student
- to sign a declaration that the Investigation is the work of the individual working independently
- to inform AQA where there are concerns about malpractice, such as plagiarism or the submission of work that is not that of the student
Assessment and moderation
The Historical Investigation will be marked by centres and moderated by AQA. It is most important that centres establish rigorous internal standardisation to ensure that the rank order of the students is fair, accurate and appropriate. This is particularly important in larger centres where more than one teacher has prepared and assessed students.
The work of students is to be assessed by a levels of response mark scheme which addresses each of the following assessment objectives, with the weighting as indicated:
|Assessment Objective||Max Mark|
|AO1: Demonstrate, organise and communicate knowledge and understanding to analyse and evaluate the key features related to the periods studied, making substantiated judgements and exploring concepts, as relevant, of cause, consequence, change, continuity, similarity, difference and significance||20|
|AO2: Analyse and evaluate appropriate source material, primary and/or contemporary to the period, within the historical context.||10|
|AO3: Analyse and evaluate, in relation to the historical context, different ways in which aspects of the past have been interpreted.||10|
Mark Scheme to be used when assessing the Historical investigation
AO1: 20 marks
Demonstrate, organise and communicate knowledge and understanding to analyse and evaluate the key features related to the periods studied, making substantiated judgements and exploring concepts, as relevant, of cause, consequence, change, continuity, similarity and significance.
NOTE: An Historical investigation which fails to show an understanding of change and continuity within the context of approximately 100 years cannot be placed above Level 2 in AO1 (maximum 8 marks)
Level 5: 17–20 The response demonstrates a very good understanding of change and continuity within the context of approximately 100 years and meets the full demands of the chosen question. It is very well organised and effectively delivered. The supporting information is well-selected, specific and precise. It shows a very good understanding of key features, issues and concepts. The answer is fully analytical with a balanced argument and well-substantiated judgement.
Level 4: 13–16 The response demonstrates a good understanding of change and continuity within the context of approximately 100 years and meets the demands of the chosen question. It is well-organised and effectively communicated. There is a range of clear and specific supporting information, showing a good understanding of key features and issues, together with some conceptual awareness. The response is predominantly analytical in style with a range of direct comment relating to the question. The response is well-balanced with some judgement, which may, however, be only partially substantiated.
Level 3: 9–12 The response demonstrates an understanding of change and continuity within the context of approximately 100 years and shows an understanding of the chosen question. It provides a range of largely accurate information which shows an awareness of some of the key issues. This information may, however, be unspecific or lack precision of detail in parts. The response is effectively organised and shows adequate communication skills. There is a good deal of comment in relation to the chosen question, although some of this may be generalised. The response demonstrates some analytical qualities and balance of argument.
Level 2: 5–8 The response demonstrates some understanding of change and continuity but may have limitations in its coverage of a context of approximately 100 years. The response may be either descriptive or partial, showing some awareness of the chosen question but a failure to grasp its full demands. There is some attempt to convey material in an organised way although communication skills may be limited. The response contains some appropriate information and shows an understanding of some aspects of the investigation, but there may be some inaccuracy and irrelevance. There is some comment in relation to the question but comments may be unsupported and generalised.
Level 1: 1–4 The response demonstrates limited understanding of change and continuity and makes little reference to a context of approximately 100 years. The chosen question has been imperfectly understood and the response shows limited organisational and communication skills. The information conveyed is extremely limited in scope and parts may be irrelevant. There may be some unsupported, vague or generalised comment.
AO2: 10 marks
Analyse and evaluate appropriate source material, primary and/or contemporary to the period, within the historical context.
Level 5: 9–10 Provides a range of relevant and well-supported comments on the value of at least three sources of two or more different types used in the investigation to provide a balanced and convincing judgement on their merits in relation to the topic under investigation.
Level 4: 7–8 Provides relevant and well-supported comments on the value of three or more sources of two or more different types used in the investigation, to produce a balanced assessment on their merits in relation to the topic under investigation. Judgements may, however, be partial or limited in substantiation.
Level 3: 5–6 Provides some relevant comment on the value of three sources of at least two different types used in the Investigation. Some of the commentary is, however, of limited scope, not fully convincing or has only limited direction to the topic under investigation.
Level 2: 3–4 Either: provides some comment on the value of more than one source used in the investigation but may not address three sources in equal measure or refers to sources of the same 'type'. Or: provides some comment on the value of three sources of at least two types used in the investigation but the comment is excessively generalised and not well directed to the topic of the investigation.
Level 1: 1–2 Provides some comment on the value of at least one source used in the Investigation but the response is very limited and may be partially inaccurate. Comments are likely to be unsupported, vague or generalised.
In commenting and making judgements on the value of the sources, students will be expected to apply their own contextual knowledge and perspectives of time and place in order to assess the value and limitations of their sources as evidence. They will be expected to comment on, as appropriate to the investigation and chosen sources:
- the differing perspectives of the sources chosen
- the social, political, intellectual, religious and/or economic contexts in which the sources were written
- the credibility, authority, authenticity, consistency and comprehensiveness of the sources
- the bias, distortion or propagandist elements found in the sources
AO3: 10 marks
Analyse and evaluate, in relation to the historical context, different ways in which aspects of the past have been interpreted.
Level 5: 9–10 Shows a very good understanding of the differing historical interpretations raised by the question. There is a strong, well-substantiated and convincing evaluation of two interpretations with reference to the time and/or context and the limitations placed on the historians.
Level 4: 7–8 Shows a good understanding of the differing historical interpretations raised by the question. There is some good evaluation of the two interpretations with reference to the time and/or context and the limitations placed on historians, although not all comments are substantiated or convincing.
Level 3: 5–6 Shows an understanding of differing historical interpretations raised by the question. There is some supported comment on two interpretations with reference to the time and/or context and the limitations placed on historians, but the comments are limited in depth and/or substantiation.
Level 2: 3–4 Shows some understanding of the differing historical interpretations raised by the question. They may refer to either the time and/or context or to the limitations placed on the historians, or to both in an unconvincing way.
Level 1: 1–2 Shows limited understanding of the differing historical interpretations raised by the question. Comment on historical interpretations is generalised and vague.
In showing an understanding of historical interpretations and evaluating historical interpretations, students will be expected to apply their own contextual knowledge.
They will be expected, as appropriate to the investigation:
- to show an understanding of the limitations placed on historians
- to show an understanding of the significance of the time and/or context in which an historian writes
- to compare and evaluate differing historical interpretations.
- Specifications for first teaching in 2015 (1018.6 KB)