User:Quolla6/The Importance of Sourcing


This is a continuation of an article on Sourcing It is also incomplete, unfinished, unsatisfactory---a work in progress.

Why we Source...

Sourcing is important for two reasons:

First, memory is an unreliable thing. Its important to document where certain bits of information come from so that at a later date we can go back and find that same information again. To that point some would ask "Why would we do that? We found it once, and got what we needed. Why would we want to go back again?" There are a number of reasons why we would want to go back to the same source more than once.

A. Its always possible that we have misunderstood the original information. Perhaps new information comes to hand and makes us wonder about our previous conclusions. Perhaps we will gain new insight by looking at the original, in its original context. Recording where the information comes from makes it easier to get back to the original. We might conclude, after reviewing the original material, that our initial conclusion was right, that its the new information that's been misinterpreted, or vice versa. Or, as is often the case, the best interpretation might lie somewhere "in between." But to do this, we need to document where our information comes from. Memory is often unreliable, and without good "sourcing", we may find it difficult to get back to the original should the need ever arise.
B, when others read our work, they themselves might have some question about our interpretation. They may have other information, or other perspectives, and may not agree with our interpretation, or they may feel that our interpretation makes the better sense. But in either case, they will want to know how we reached our conclusions, and whether we have correctly interpreted the original information that we used. They may want see where we have identified our sources. We source so others can "see the same as we".
C, It improves our personal credibility. ....

There are several reasons why we source. Some of them are just a matter of politeness, some are a matter of good form. For example:

1. Its a courtesy to others who have looked at the same thing previous, and whose opinions we value enough to want to include in our own work.

2. If we use text that someone else has written, we should give them due credit for the work they've done. If the excerpt is lengthy, and still under copyright, we can't use it directly, as to do so would violate their rights to the material. If the material is brief, we maybe able to use it under "fair use provisions" of US copyright law. In any case, we need to identify the specific source of the words. Citing the quote with the appendage of "Author, date:page", usually does the trick, at least if there's a corresponding bibliographic citation somewhere. (My current approach to this is to place the bibliographic citation as a linked "source" article---as in Source:Tuckerman, 1893. Sometimes I include the text of the work (assuming its out of copyright) as a MySource article,---as in, MySource:Tuckerman, 1893:34 et seq. In such cases, I include the specific page numbers in the title of the article. Sometimes a portion of the MySource article makes its way into the text of other articles, sometimes its there just for reference. I try to link the "Source", and "MySource" articles to each other so that if you come to the MySource article first, you can get to the full bibliographic citation in "Source". In addition, in the Source article, I usually try to include an electronic source of the work so that others can follow up and see if they agree with my interpretation of that work.

But there are more important reasons for providing sources.

1. We want to be able to comeback at some later date and see where we got specific bits of information. Questions sometimes arise over interpretation, sometimes we or others reading the same material, reach different conclusions, and we need to be able to retrace our steps to see a) how we got here from there, and b) whether in the light of new understandings, we need to see if the original material still supports our conclusions.

2. More importantly, we want others to be able to do exactly the same thing. We want others to be able to go back and see exactly what our conclusions were based on. Perhaps they have reached other conclusions, and perhaps they have the right of it. In that case, we want to be able to take advantage of their better understanding to improve our own. Or vic versa. But to do that means we have to explain what our conclusions re based on. We have to show where we got the information. Failing to do that means no one can go back and see "the same as I". You either have to take someone's word for the conclusions reached, or ignore their work.