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Thread: Getting the most out of using sources

  1. #31
    Silver Member Tylluan Penry's Avatar
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    Re: Getting the most out of using sources

    It's often worth checking out the sources cited in secondary sources. You would be surprised how often they are wrong! I've even seen an 'academic' source with Harvard style footnotes but no full bibliography, which means that you can't even see what work is being referred to!

  2. #32
    Supporter cesara's Avatar
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    Re: Getting the most out of using sources

    Great thread, guys....just wanted to say that...lol.
    Allow me to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket. ~ Captain Jack Sparrow


  3. #33
    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
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    Re: Getting the most out of using sources

    If you are reading anything which makes use of statistical information, you really, really need to have some knowledge of statistics so that you will know what statistics can and can not tell you, what kind of information is legitimately conveyed through statistics, and how that information is conveyed by the statistics.

    I've seen "research" composed largely of inferences drawn from statistics in which correlation and cause were treated as the same thing, sweeping conclusions were drawn from statistically insignificant data, and conclusions were presented which were directly contradicted by the statistical evidence which had been given.

    This kind of propaganda is easy to do because most people either don't understand statistics, or do not actually review the statistics presented (because the "conclusion" presented by the author[s] "sums it all up" for the reader without using numbers).



    Also, it's absolutely necessary that one understands the difference between "rhetoric" (the art of speaking or writing effectively) and "logic" (the art of accurate reasoning) - which is like the difference between poetry and algebra.

    Ideally they are used together - rhetoric makes the reader want to believe the truth demonstrated through logic, but more often good rhetoric is used with bad logic, tricking the reader into believing what has not been demonstrated to be true. And logic used without rhetoric is generally ignored because it’s boring.

    When I was teaching an advanced literary analysis class, this was something which even highly intelligent students had a big problem with - their definition of truth was what they had been led to believe (by an effective author), rather than carefully separating out the rhetorical gymnastics of the author and assessing the actual logic of the information presented. Try doing THAT the next time you have to listen to a political speech...
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  4. #34
    Silver Member Tylluan Penry's Avatar
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    Re: Getting the most out of using sources

    De Corbin - thanks for that timely information about statistics. It's surprising how many people look at a chart of figures and just seem to switch off, whereas actually there are huge amounts of info to be extrapolated from them.

    And yes, you're so right about rhetoric - people get taken in by it, and then those using the rhetoric get lazy and don't even bother to try any more! I always tell people to look out for the 'weasel words' that are a dead giveaway that the writer is trying to manipulate the readers. Mind you, all writers do that to some extent, although some are downright unscrupulous about it!

  5. #35
    Sr. Member Gwen's Avatar
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    Re: Getting the most out of using sources

    Time for another academic framework to look for!

    Postmodernism, Postcolonialism, and Poststructuralism are closely related frameworks that have taken academia by storm in the second half of the 20th century. They arose in response to the fall of European colonialism and its sibling-theories about social evolution and the inherent and natural superiority of European culture. Some basic ideas:

    -Colonial-era philosophy, theology, and natural science assumed a Descartes-style discrete self ("I think therefore I am") with that all-important faculty of reason. The post- movements break down that idea, insisting on the centrality of influences of race, class, culture, religion, gender, etc in building any given concept of self. The argument is that nothing--no person, no social movement, no work of art--can be read independent of its context. (Yes, this caution has been stated many times on this thread. This is where that sensibility comes from, folks.)

    -Postcolonialism is particularly interested in the ways that identities of--and prejudices around--race, class, gender, embodiment, sexuality, religion, and ethnicity shape past and present discourse in all spheres of human life. Remember the Cartesian mind-body split I mentioned earlier? Much ink has been spilled identifying and challenging its role in past "knowledge." For example, a Postmodern reading of Shakespeare's Tempest is very interested in the island as colony, Miranda and Prospero's gendered roles, Caliban's "native" darkness and negative portrayal, and the role of Prospero's powerful books.

    -Enlightenment and colonial eras focused on uncovering absolute and timeless "right answers" in all fields of human understanding. The post- schools deny the existence of One Truth in any field, focusing instead on relativity and subjectivity: everything looks different depending on who's looking, where they're standing, what sociocultural influences underpin the "they." Post- scholars mostly deny the existence of any absolute truths; those who argue for some form of absolute truth seriously limit its scope compared to scholars in previous intellectual movements.

    The Post- schools have a serious case of jargon fever. I jokingly refer to Postmodernism as a separate language, and it can be hard to decipher at first glance. Buzzwords: gendered; "the Other"/Othering; "the subject"/subjectivity; narrative; paradigm; paradox; dialectic; discourse; patriarchy; capitalism; deconstruction. The Postmodernism Essay Generator generates random essays based on Postmodern language, and gives you a decent feel for postmodern writing (despite being itself meaningless).

    A lot of Postmodern writing uses some of this jargon, but its influence is pervasive enough in recent scholarship that you will run into the ideas in pieces written in languages other than Postmodern. (^_^) When you spot some of the above-listed ideas, look for the others--and be aware that sometimes writers focus on deconstructing the apparent meaning of their topic to the exclusion of other ways to look at it. I personally find their critiques quite valuable usually, but over the top sometimes. (For example, when I talk about the dark half of the year being a time of turning inward, contemplating, resting, and preparing, I'm not talking about skin color, but rather how long days are relative to nights. However, I have been told by a friend to be careful how I use language of light and dark because some others at our seminary will read race into it no matter how I qualify it.)
    “If it’s a good idea and it gets you excited, try it, and if it bursts into flames, that’s going to be exciting too. People always ask, ‘What is your greatest failure?’ I always have the same answer — We’re working on it right now, it’s gonna be awesome!”- Jim Coudal

  6. #36

    Re: Getting the most out of using sources

    yes, your posts are all useful for us .

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