Writing Resources

Eight Ways of Using A Source

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1. Drawing Battle Lines:

Present a pre-existing disagreement among scholars.

There are two main hypotheses for how Brightest Cluster Galaxies (BCGs) formed: monolithic collapse and hierarchical building (Collins et al. 2006). Under the monolithic collapse model, the stars in the BCG formed all together, so the ages and metallicities of the stellar populations across the galaxy are relatively uniform. Meanwhile, according to the hierarchical building model, the galaxy built up through a number of smaller galaxies merging together. In this model, the different regions of the galaxies have varying ages and metallicities, since they formed in different parts of the Universe at different times.

2. Picking a Fight:

Establish a stable position on your subject in order to challenge it later.

No scholar denies that Beckett has modelled the protagonist, Krapp, after a clown of some sort. When determining which type of clown, scholars rarely stray from the interpretation that Krapp is a mime (Bryden 360, Gruber 89, Levy 181). The fact that this reading perfectly explains Krapp’s “self-mimetic” tape-listening, has kept scholars from realizing that it only explains so much about his story. No scholar seems to have considered it, but analyzing Krapp as a different kind of clown—a harlequin—opens a wellspring of insight into a greater portion of his situation.

3. Piggy-backing:

Back up your point by showing that another scholar has argued the same.

After years of experience dealing with Pap, his violent and overbearing father, Huck has learned that “the best way to get along with his kind of people is to let them have their own way” (131). So Huck’s assent to Tom’s proposal is not uncharacteristic by any means. Richard Hill notes that just as Huck deferred to Pap, the king, and the duke in order to prevent any conflict, so he does with Tom (499).

4. Leap-frogging:

Use previous research as a jumping-off point for asking a new question.

Studying the extent and nature of octopus cognition offers a new angle by which we can examine the evolution of intelligence. Previous studies of octopus intelligence have focused mainly on learning capabilities through classical conditioning techniques (for review, see Boal 1996), whereas the research proposed herein will use the methodology of past studies of octopus cognition (e.g. Bierens de Haan 1949, Walker et al. 1970, Boal 1996) to study two inter-related characteristic markers of higher cognition. Specifically, the proposed study will seek to determine whether octopuses have the capacity for delay of gratification, and whether octopuses will use play as an effective self-distracting coping mechanism.

5. Matchmaking:

Place previously unacquainted sources in conversation with each other.

Citing harsh portrayals of religious officials in the Canterbury Tales, scholars often conclude that the text is “fundamentally anti-religious” (Condren 75). These scholars’ views, however, fail to consider Catholicism within its historical context. Religion scholar, Gabriel Daly, claims that because religions evolve over time, one must distinguish between the “Catholicism of Medieval times and Catholicism at its inception” (Daly 778). Theologian Richard McBrien takes this argument even further…

6. So what? So this:

Give context that shows why your subject is interesting or important.

Leon Rappoport further clarifies how stereotypes and ethnicity-based mockery embody the superiority theory by explaining that these disparaging jokes often employ “polar opposite adjectives… [so that] only [the] negative end of the pair is emphasized [and] the positive end always remains implicitly understood as characteristic of the ‘superior’ joke teller” (33). With these jokes, the overt debasement of immigrants simultaneously elevates the person making the joke. Consequently, the opposing adject-ive suggest a hierarchy between the person who tells the joke and the people at the butt of the joke.

7. Defining Key Terms:

Use sources to define and illustrate key concepts in your paper.

The phenomenon of evil laughter is not new. Indeed, many instances of the “evil laughter” of “mockers” appear throughout the Holy Bible. Roger Poudrier highlights one passage that could easily apply to the villains in a popular action movie, “They laugh at my fall, they organize against me… If I fall they surround me… those who hate me for no reason. They open wide their mouths against me saying: Ha, ha!” (ps. 35:15-21; qtd in Poudrier 23). The righteous narrator describes the mockers as people who attack him and his faith for no reason and laugh in a particularly immodest way. Roy Baumeister observes the same characteristic in cartoon programs of the 1980s, citing…

8. Changing the Question:

Argue that scholars have been asking the wrong question.

[T]here has been a remarkable consensus about the terms which ought to be used to describe [Pride and Prejudice’s] antitheses. Again and again… we come upon some variation of the terms “individual” and “society.” [Quotes from three sources that read Pride and Prejudice in these terms] In the face of such a long-standing consensus of interpretation, it may seem merely ingenious at this point in time to question either the essential validity or the usefulness of this description of the novel… But in at least two important respects it seems open to objection.

Credit: Adapted from Ryan Wepler, “Eight Strategies for Using Sources,” Yale College Writing Center, 2014