Welcome to English Composition, I'm Gavin McCall. Thanks for joining me. What are we going to learn today? We're going to learn about sources and the different ways writers can use them to support their arguments. We'll discuss quotations, summaries and paraphrases, as well as how to deal with the opinions that sources express. And then we'll look at an example of how to make effective use of sources.
Sources are exterior publications or artifacts that writers research and use in their essays as evidence for claims, points of distinction between their ideas and those of others, or as a means to establish credibility regarding the author's knowledge of the topic and the conversation surrounding it. Sources generally make up key pieces of support and are critical for proving the thesis of most argumentative essays. Since there are more potential sources of information out there than any writer could ever possibly use, it's important to be selective and choose only the most relevant and credible sources, those that will be most effective at proving the essay's thesis or claims.
Just as in other aspects of the writing process, in choosing sources it's critical to keep your purpose for writing in mind. There are three forms of sources, including primary, which means that they are as close as possible to the event or original item. They would generally require the writer to perform an analysis or interpretation of the information. Secondary sources, however, are those that contain other writers' ideas and opinions about primary sources. These are useful for providing information about a topic or the conversation surrounding it, and for distinguishing the writer's ideas from those of others.
The last kind of source, tertiary sources, are syntheses or compilations of multiple secondary sources, and are most useful for providing introductory or background information, rather than being used for direct citation. It's best to use a combination of primary and secondary sources when quoting, paraphrasing or summarizing, because tertiary sources are far removed from the original event or item being discussed. And as such, they're generally considered less credible, and less useful for building arguments or establishing the writer's ethos.
Quotations, which are bits of text taken directly from a source, are one of the most effective ways to make use of outside sources. They should be selected carefully for the best or most relevant information. And they should be used sparingly. That way, the quotations do not replace or overwhelm the writer's own words and ideas, which should always have precedence. Quotations, which should be surrounded by quotation marks, are a form of in text citation and should be followed by a parenthetical reference that includes the specific, brief bibliographic data readers need to understand where the quotation was taken from, and to find the source for themselves if they so desire.
It's best to use signal phrases to introduce each quotation, as well as a discussion after it to clarify the meaning or value of the quotation for the reader-- and always in the context of the essay. Besides quoting directly, writers can also make use of sources through paraphrasing and summarizing. To perform a summary, writers distill the main ideas or thesis of a source and reword them in a smaller, more concise version.
Paraphrases, meanwhile, are done by restating in your own words a point or idea of the source, and usually by also explaining or interpreting the point, and making its relevance to the essay more clear, if necessary. Both summaries and paraphrases are in text citations. And as such, they also require parenthetical references with the specific bibliographic data that refers to the appropriate entry of the references page. And just like it is for quotations, when paraphrasing or summarizing it's a good idea to both precede and follow them with your own words, further clarifying the meaning of the source's ideas and how they relate to the context of your essay.
Many sources, primarily secondary sources, will express another writer's opinion. These opinions can be used as evidence, whether or not they agree with your essay's claims or thesis. This is most effective when a source's author is credible, or noted in a particular area, or considered an expert on the matter. If the source comes from a layman, or otherwise unknown speaker, the source is likely to be viewed as less credible, especially if the opinions expressed by the source aren't backed up by reasoning and evidence, or the support of other, more prestigious sources.
Now, let's look at one writer's use of a source. This paragraph, which, as you'll see, could use a little help, is using a text to further its discussion of borderlands, and what that means in a colonial world. Though much has been said about the damage of colonialism upon a native population, less has been said about the effects of a colonial state allowed to become the state.
In Gloria Anzaldua's home of Southern Texas, the United States has imposed its military, cultural and socioeconomic dominance over those who lived with or on the land prior to colonization. And no matter that the mainstream population, and many of the residents, no longer consider these lands to be colonized. The effects of a postcolonial state can be seen in the life and literature of the place, a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue of an unnatural boundary.
The many genres, purposes and languages in Anzaldua's text are the closest that literature can come to truly representing the day-to-day experiences of those living on borders, on cultural contact zones. So as you can see, this paragraph is fairly well put together, but it could still use some help. The first problem I noticed is the dropped quote. This happens when a writer fails to introduce a quotation. And so the reader is left to decide how or if whatever's being quoted is relevant to the essay's argument.
The other, bigger, problem I see is that the paragraph's topic sentence, here, I think it's this one about how the United States has opposed to its military, cultural, and socioeconomic dominance over those who lived with or on the land prior to colonization. It's not really being discussed or supported very well. As it is, I'm having a hard time seeing what point exactly the writer wanted to make with or about this sentence.
Oh, and there's one technical problem I spotted. Here, the parenthetical reference should have a p to indicate that this number refers to the page number. We can probably assume that, but still, it should be formatted correctly. So now, here's a revised and edited version of the paragraph. I'll read it through again, but as I do, keep an eye and an ear out for new material. And decide for yourself whether this new paragraph's expanded use of the source does or does not do a better job of supporting the topic sentence.
Though much has been said about the damage of colonialism upon a native population, less has been said about the effects of a colonial state allowed to become the state. In Gloria Anzaldua's home of Southern Texas, the United States has imposed its military, cultural and socioeconomic dominance over those who lived with or on the land prior to colonization. As Anzaldua writes, her hometown was itself blurred and poorly defined, unable to tell what part was Texan, and what part Mexican, and what part something different, something other.
Anzaldua's multi-genre text is itself a representation of the inherent duplicity required of those occupying a borderland, which she defines as a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue of an unnatural boundary. As the book progresses, we follow Anzaldua through a life of people, places, and things that are all, in one way or another, occupying a borderland. The many genres, purposes and languages in Anzaldua's text are the closest that literature can come to truly representing the day-to-day experiences of those living on borders, on cultural contact zones.
As you can see, with the added paraphrase here, and a summary of the text as a whole here, we can now get a better sense of how the source, Anzaldua's book, is relevant to the writer's discussion of colonialism in Southern Texas.
So what have we learned today? We learned a lot, all about how to use sources in argumentative research essays. We covered what kinds of sources are out there and how to choose from among them. And we looked at quotations, summaries and paraphrases. Then we talked about how to deal with opinions in sources, and looked at the example of a source being used ineffectively, and improved upon it. I'm Gavin McCall, thanks for joining me.