Updated August 2, 2021 to incude updated information.

This post is meant mainly for my writing course students, but others can ride along and may get something from it as well. Let’s talk about sources in academic writing, especially research writing. So, in other classes, maybe in high school, you may have ranked sources by where they are: Print being primary, books better than articles, and print articles better than anything on the internet. Times have changed and to be truthful, this change is not all that new. Print is no longer priviledged, and the turning point for this change was the shift of the world wide web from being an informal consotium of universities to the free-ranging structure it is today. I mark the real change with Mosaic, an early web browser released in 1993 that made web searching much more possible. Since that time, investigating a topic means sources found through the internet, enough that it ithe norm now rather than physically going into a library building and flipping through a drawer of cards in one of many aisles full of drawers. The file drawers are virtual now and you may go to the library to pick up a source, but the search is digital, through printed cards. So, since you are rummaging about using the world wide web anyway, how about those sources not physically in your community or university library building? It is the nature of web sources to look like they are authoritative, but not all are. Let’s take a look and reason through some source categories.

Having the internet be the access point for all sources means a more even footing for multiple modes of publication. For example, some may wonder, why bother with video clips or even blog posts? Here’s the deal: it’s true that all sources are not equal, but it’s also true that why they are not equal has nothing to do with their genre (i.e., where you find them–book, article, website, film, digital recording, and so on). The source itself holds its value, not where you find it.

Now there is some truth to the idea that some neighborhoods are less likely to hold stellar sources intended to be used for scholarly writing. Since you intend to do scholarly writing, academic writing, chances are you won’t find the modern equivalent of Derrida hanging out in a chatroom debating  deconstruction and why he thought there was “nothing outside the text.” You may have noticed that the his name here links to a Wikipedia entry, another thing most instructors say is not reliable. In actuality, Wikipedia has a peer review process that is more rigorous and lengthy than that of a print encyclopedia with the added benefit that it has no page limit and can update in a moment rather than waiting three to five years with an annual update volume to tide readers over. No, the fact that it is on the web is not why instructors say “Don’t use Wikipedia in your academic paper.” It is the fact that it is an encyclopedia at all. Encyclopedias are not used for scholarly writing, which prefers to use the most primary sources possible. I used it here though because I wanted you to know who he was but did not need you to have deeper knowledge. Derrida was not the point.

No, the point was that Derrida did not have an Angelfire or Geocities page. Screenshot 2021-08-02 09.12.25 He might have done Tumblr, but the authority would be in that it was HIM, not that it was a Tumblr page. Back to the using video clips thing, you can link them within your research paper, and with a little work, can even embed it. I like the compromise of having a screenshot as an image and either having a comtextual link (like I did below), the link in a caption, or the whole image can be a link, something you can do when composing a web article. With that in mind, this YouTube of Derrida talking about fear of writing, is a really good source. It is primary, meaning that it is Derrida himself literally saying things.

Next go to part two of this discussion to read the academic sources hierarchy.

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