Chapter 10: Joining the Conversation: Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, and You

Passive Conduit

The second mistake occurs when the writer hopes that the sources will somehow speak to themselves and arrive at a meaningful conclusion without much help. In these sorts of conversations, the student has become a non-contributor, sitting passively as the sources speak at each other rather than speaking to each other in light of the conversation the student is trying to facilitate. This sort of non-conversation occurs in papers in which the student quotes large passages from one or several sources with minimal purpose or interaction. It is as if the student has said, “Source A, meet Source B,” then departed quickly rather than get in the way of the magic that will hopefully happen as these two sources make a meaningful connection. Using once again our primary evidence and our secondary article, here’s what happens when the student hopes the sources will speak to and for themselves:


As McCosker and Johns claim in “Productive Provocations: Vitriolic Media, Spaces of Protest and Agonistic Outrage in the 2011 England Riots,” it is the “lack of consensus, the evident irrationality and passionate individualism, as well as the intensity of emotion revolving around the continuous generation of provocation and (re)action that reveals the positive capacity of unmoderated comment spaces. That is, while not always dialogic in the strict sense of an ongoing conversation or consensus, the comment field as described here enables the emergence of ‘a ‘life politics’ able to reach the various areas of personal life, creating a ‘democracy of emotions’ (Mouffe, 2005: 15).” This can be seen in the comments on the Occupy Wall Street Facebook page, when after a series of vitriolic comments and insults, contributor Tara Lambert is able to say, “I am seeing the seeds of divisiveness being sewn within OWS and BLM. Start us fighting amongst each other and we are no threat to the power abusers, the oppressors. I am seeing those who should be natural allies, being pitted against each other and suspicion injected into activist circles. History keeps repeating itself.”

To borrow Tara Lambert’s metaphor, I think we can see the “seeds” of the argument the author of this paragraph is trying to make, but the author relies far too much on large citations from the primary and scholarly sources. Neither source is being put to use and the author’s intention is not clear. This author needs to inject purpose into this paragraph and use the evidence to support the claim.


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Write Here, Right Now: An Interactive Introduction to Academic Writing and Research Copyright © 2018 by Ryerson University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.