Secondary Source Essay

In the Primary Sources Essay, you examined a local issue through primary sources. For this assignment you will address a similar question in a broader context—that is, beyond the University of Illinois. Your goal is to engage with academic research on an issue of larger social import, such as on the statewide, national, or international level. You will need to engage with a minimum of three peer-reviewed secondary sources, but you should feel free to use as many as you need to generate sufficiently weighty perspectives on the issue.

A peer-reviewed source, as we have learned, is a scholar-authored article or book that has undergone a process of commentary and evaluation by peers who are also knowledgeable experts. The peer review process is a staple of academic practice: Most academic journals and university presses require that their publications undergo peer review prior to publication. Sources from other forms of publications (for example, newspapers, news magazines like Time or Newsweek, blogs, CNN or other networks) have not undergone a process of peer review and should not be used in this paper. Make sure that the secondary sources that you locate pertain to your question for the essay.

You might find it helpful to start with one secondary source, and have the questions it raises lead you to the next secondary source for more information or another disciplinary perspective. In the course of writing this essay you should argue for the relevance of each secondary source to your question. Rather than a mere summary of your secondary sources, you should strive to speak back to them (and let them speak to each other); constantly evaluate their claims and measure their conclusions against each other and your own close reading of them. Let your argument structure the essay. Be sure to provide full bibliographic information for each source and all necessary in-text citations (choose a documentation style you think most appropriate for your research interests).

Some requirements and helpful pieces of advice:

1. You may continue to work in a group. If you work in a group, each person must locate at least TWO secondary sources.

2. Again, for this assignment, “secondary source” means peer reviewed scholarly source. We will discuss what this means in class in the coming weeks. If you have any question whether or not a source is secondary, email me and ask. It is very common for students accidentally to use non-reviewed sources, and I don’t want you to make that mistake.

3. Make sure not to miss class on the day we visit the undergrad library.

4. A complete Works Cited page is REQUIRED for this assignment. When searching for sources in the academic databases or at the library, be careful not to lose track of the sources you find. The easiest way to do this is to record the author’s name, article title, and the name of the journal. If you try to just copy and paste hyperlinks, you will lose your research!

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