Primary versus Secondary Sources

First off, this description is specific to the Fiction Essay and Poetry Essay assignments in my ENG 1002 course, both face-to-face and online. Each of those essays asks students to use primary and secondary source citation to make a critical argument about a piece of short fiction or a poem/pair of poems.

Primary Source

The short story or poetry you are analyzing in  your essay. If your essay is about Disney’s Frozen, then Frozen is your primary source.

Here is an example way in which you can incorporate a primary source citation into your essay writing.

Secondary Source

The article(s) you use to support or make your critical/analytical claims about your short story or poetry. In most academic writing, the secondary source will fall into one of two categories (these categories will vary from instructor to instructor and assignment to assignment based on the assignment and course learning outcomes at hand):

  • academic secondary source: a scholarly journal article found via IVCC’s library databases, a reputable Internet article, streaming content from a TED talk or reputable podcast, and/or a personal interview. Many instructors will allow .org or .gov sites.
  • non-academic secondary source: Internet articles that may not have all of the WWWs, sites such as Wikipedia or Wikihow, documentaries from streaming sites such as Netflix (some instructors will consider documentaries as academic), social media posts, and most general .com sites.

You are expected to know what types of secondary sources are required for each writing assignment. And here is a link to the IVCC Stylebook ‘s “Using Sources” page with additional information about finding credible sources, representing sources fairly, where to use source information, and how to balance your writing voice with that of your sources.

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