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On this page, you will find videos, text, slides and other materials commonly used in instruction. If you have any questions about this content or how to apply it to your work, please reach out to the Performing Arts Librarian, Christina Gibson, firstname.lastname@example.org
Popular Sources: Articles, books, videos, recordings, blog/ social media posts composed for a wide audience. These are sources that tend to be produced quickly with little to no editorial review process. Popular sources can be a place to start--to get a sense for widespread controversy, for example. If you have determined that a source is reliable, a popular source can be a good place to get current information. They can also be used as primary sources for past events.
Academic Sources: Articles, books, lectures, editions, and documentaries written by a scholar for other scholars. These sources have gone through a peer-review process before publication, allowing other experts to ask questions, request adjustments to the argument and evidence, and ultimately provide approval before publication. You can judge the value of an academic source by checking the authority of the author (is this person an expert in the subject?), by tracking the use of evidence through footnotes or endnotes (there should be a lot of these with details about where they got their information), and by following the logic of the argument.
Primary Source: A source close to the historical event being studied. If you are studying a performance, for example, a primary source might include: an A/V recording of that performance, photographs of rehearsals, published critical reviews of the performance, diary entries, letters, or emails describing the performance, or a memoir by a cast member. Primary-ness is both contextual and on a continuum, with some sources more ideal than others.
Secondary Source: A source providing analysis of the event or phenomena being studied, usually from some distance. Reliable secondary sources examine primary sources and secondary sources to arrive at a narrative that gives new insight to the subject. Good secondary sources on a performance might include a reception analysis (a study of the reviews of the performance), a musical analysis, a biography of the contributors, a comparative study of similarly themed performances.
Sometimes librarians use an impolite acronym to summarize how they evaluate sources. The words forming the acronym suggest the sets of critical thinking skills students can apply to all kinds of information sources, including popular/ academic. It was written to respond to secondary sources, but with adjustment these questions can be used with primary sources too.
How recently was this written or produced? Is it likely to have up-to-date information? Alternately, was it produced proximate to the event being studied and is it valuable for that reason? Or is it a foundational source that a lot of others build upon?
Does this source speak to your research question or information need or is it on an adjacent topic? To which sub-topic does it respond? How is it in conversation with other sources you have read? Does it add crucial information or provide a new point of view?
Are you sure the information provided is true or accurate? Does it have footnotes, and, if so, can you spot check to make sure the author is using the footnotes in a way that indicates a full understanding of the original text? If not, are there other signs that the author is supporting their argument with evidence? Perhaps through quotes from primary sources or photographs?
Who wrote this book or article? Do they have credentials or life experience that would indicate sufficient knowledge to write with authority? If not author is listed, can you follow the evidence and the logic of the writing in a way that suggests the author can be trusted? It is perfectly acceptable to Google an author's name, to search by author in a database, to use Google scholar to look at their list of publications.
What point of view is being represented? How might that affect what kinds of information is being provided and how it is being provided? To arrive at the purpose, you might need to investigate both the author and the publication for which they are writing. Although no author can be completely objective, an author CAN try to represent opposing points of view and respond to ongoing disagreements with arguments supported by evidence, which allows the reader to form a separate opinion from the author's.