One Writer’s Journey

December 24, 2014

Research: What Sources Should You Use?

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:39 am
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research materialsWhen I begin a new project that requires research the first thing that I do is do a library search.  I request nonfiction for adults and children and also do a database search for articles of all kinds.

Although I read the material that has already been published for children, these are not my sources.  These are my competition.  I want to see what they’ve included so that I can deal with the information in a different way. Sometimes this means including new findings that they didn’t include.  Sometimes it means letting my readers in on a controversy.  Other times it simply means using an organization that is more appealing or less intimidating or confusing.

The actual research materials are the adult materials that I have gathered.  Some of them are secondary sources; others are primary.

Primary sources are eyewitness accounts, first hand materials, one degree of separation from the actual event.  Interviews, scholarly papers, National Geographic articles, documentaries, and photographs all fall under primary sources.

Secondary sources are books and articles based on primary sources.  At best, there are two degrees of separation between secondary sources and the actual event.  That said, read them as well.  They can often clue you in on a topic you need to look for in the primary sources and may also be the source material that you need to use when the primary materials are not available.

How many sources do you need?  It depends on what you are writing.  My book on the Ancient Maya had 51 sources.  My book on Pearl Harbor had 78.  I have no idea how many sources I’ll need for my current project, a book on the Cuban Missile Crisis.  The word count for this book is less than a quarter of the count for either of the other two.  Somehow I doubt that the bibliography will reflect this but I won’t know until I turn in my finished draft this January.

–SueBE

 

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