Chapter Four: What's a Good Source?
  • Scholar rarely begin writing an argument before they've viewed the work of current and previous scholars
  • work won't be compelling if others have already answered your questions

Starting with sources helps:

  • Verifying whether our work will yield something new
  • Begin collecting information to answer our research questions
  • Provide context for our investigation or theories that worked for other scholars
  • Identify views, assumptions, or conclusions to build on or diverge from

An Elementary Way of Using Sources
Back in elementary and middle school you are taught how to do research papers and persuasive papers

Research Topics

  1. Pick a topic
  2. Find some convenient sources on that topic
  3. Take notes and/or cut and paste blocks of text and information into a document
  4. Organize your notes and information onto an outline
  5. Glue together sources with your own words and transitions
  6. Write an introduction that ties everything together with a thesis or main idea
  7. Restate your intro as a conclusion

Persuasive Paper

  1. Pick a controversy
  2. Choose a thesis based on what you already know and think about your topic
  3. Think of the reasons why your thesis must be right
  4. Find sources that contradict or complicate your argument
  5. Write the equivalent of a 5-page essay

Neither of these examples are good scholarly models.

  • If a persuasive paper lacks research, it is more of an unsupported opinion paper

writing that follows research

  1. Begin with a very specific problem or question within your discipline that interests you: a catalyst.
  2. Review scholarly publications to make sure that your question is worth asking or that your problem still needs solving, so that fellow scholars won't be wondering So what?
  3. Design and conduct some kind of investigation to solve the problem or answer the question, such as conducting an interview or distributing surveys
  4. Report results of the research, in the form of an argument, to colleagues in your discipline via a scholarly conference presentation and/or publication

Because arguments are created from previous data, practical experience, or other inspirations, writing typically follows research for experienced scholars.

Sifting Through Sources

  1. Stability. Wikipedia content changes all the time, and therefore your reader may not be bale to go back and find the same information that was there when you accessed it. Although folks are getting more used to the idea of dynamic, electronic publications, most readers still trust printed text more.
  2. Credibility. Anyone can write wikipedia entries, and contributors do so anonymously. Scholars care about credentials, which is why they place more trust in authors with proven expertise. If they don't know you, they don't trust you. That's why apprentices must earn credibility as they go and borrow it from more established sources.
  3. Reliability. Scholarly publications undergo a rigorous review process through which experts scrutinize quality. Wikipedia does have an editorial review process, but it's more organic and egalitarian. Contributors edit each other's entries, and there's virtually no pecking order of expertise, just rule by consensus.
  • You shouldn't generally trust unstable sources written and reviewed by anonymous crowds. So you probably shouldn't source wikipedia, but we still do. It is a website that provides quick and easy information.

So What's a Better Source

  • The most trustworthy piece of writing are those written by other scholars.
  • Credibility depends on the particular audience and situation.
  • We can find credible scholarly sources by asking other scholars, explore a research database, search online
  • When reviewing public sites such as company websites, blog spots, or personal web pages, our rhetorical thinking must be kicked into overdrive. We ask ourselves:
    • Who wrote this? What makes them credible?
    • What are the authors trying to achieve?
    • How do they support their claims?
    • Is anyone profiting from this? Who? How might money-making efforts influence the content?
    • When was this written?
    • Will this still be here next month?
  • It is important that the topic is broad enough so that you can find enough information on the topic.

Big topics need big research containers

How Do We Use Sources
When scholars review other scholar's work, they often summarize, paraphrase, and quote others in a "literature review" or "research review", which they publish with their findings to help their readers enter the conversation and share background information.

How Do We Summarize

  1. Read the text - paying attention to the genre of the original and how it is organized.
  2. Create a "reverse outline", or schematic, of the text's layout - technique comes in handy whenever you're reading complicated arguments and even when you're revising your own writing
  3. Select the most relevant point - points that the reader would need to know in order to grasp the text's purpose and argument
  4. Write a summary - aimed to be unbiased
  5. Revise the summary - make it shorter, and make brutal cuts. Figure out what deserves to be there and what can be left out

How Do We Paraphrase

  1. Read carefully
  2. Think about what it is saying
  3. Rewrite the gist of what the source says
  4. Double check the original
  5. Cite the author

Managing the Research Process

  • The process of sifting through sources could be overwhelming, and can be easy to get your sources confused.
  • It is imperative that you take good notes
  • When you find a particularly useful quotation, write it down.
  • Keep meticulous records

Using Sources to Generate Ideas

  1. Play the Believing and Doubting Game
  2. Find a source with which you strongly disagree
  3. Create a table that compares and contrasts your sources
  4. Pair two sources in conversation with each other
  5. Look at one source through the "lens" of another source
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