Chapter 10: Joining the Conversation: Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, and You
So, we have our primary material and we have one scholarly secondary source. Of course, your essay will use several sources, but for the purposes of brevity, we’ll use just this source in the examples to follow. First, here are a couple of problematic uses of primary and secondary sources.
We find that one of the best approaches for students preparing to write a research essay using primary and secondary evidence is to imagine taking part in a conversation—perhaps an introduction of two people you know very well but who do not know each other. In this conversation, you will have to take a leading role, but you are hoping that the people you are introducing will hit it off and begin conversing with each other as well. Two mistakes students make when facilitating this scholarly conversation are:
- Dominating the conversation to the point that neither the primary or secondary sources contribute meaningfully.
- Being a passive conduit and contributing very little in the hope that both sources will somehow carry the conversation all by themselves.