What are secondary sources , English

What are secondary sources for, anyway?

If a teacher tells students to use secondary sources, it often seems to the students like the teacher is saying that their own ideas aren't good enough. It seems like ideas are only valid if some authority has uttered them, preferably in print.

Clearly, we all do need to consult experts in whatever area we're writing about, and there's no shame in that. The idea of using these experts' work, though, is not to substitute their ideas for your own. Rather, use what they have to say to help you go beyond their ideas. In other words, other people's research is a beginning, not an end in itself.

It's useful to think of your secondary material as something with which you contrast your own ideas. You're not necessarily arguing a completely opposite view. You may, for instance, see the source as excellent, but incomplete. Your task, then, is to add to that incomplete picture with your own findings. (Indeed, if you see any secondary source as both excellent and complete, you should revise your topic. Why write, if the "last word" on the subject has already been said?)

In quoting or paraphrasing others' work, you might even construct sentences that explicitly show the relationship of that work to your own. In this way, you both help your reader and remind yourself to move beyond what previous writers have said.


Posted Date: 5/2/2013 12:55:24 AM | Location : United States

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