Author Topic: The question of sourcing  (Read 134 times)

Offline ktulutoo

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The question of sourcing
« on: December 31, 2021, 12:09:52 AM »
I come from an academic background where (seemingly) everything needs to be sourced. I was always overly paranoid and was told I sourced too much.

Fast forward to today and I would like to illustrate a book on events from the wild west - common knowledge stuff where all those involved in the events are long gone. Some would be lesser known stories...like of failed gun fighters for instance and others wildly known (e.g. select events from Jesse James outlaw days). All of these I have learned about through secondary sources (blogs and TV programs primarily).

What would your thoughts be with respect to sources? If it is something that I learned from Blog "A" but there are 20 other blogs or online articles where the same basic story is told...what do I source or is it even needed?

The stories I am interested in are just general interesting fact type stuff you might find on a "Top 5 unknown gunfighters" list you might see on buzzfeed or something similar.

Thanks in advance. Sorry if this is verboten...I asked this question on another forum and they pulled the thread because they said it could cause them liability issues...which seemed a bit silly to me but I guess...

Offline Heartsongsdiary

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Re: The question of sourcing
« Reply #1 on: December 31, 2021, 12:20:23 AM »
I come from an academic background where (seemingly) everything needs to be sourced. I was always overly paranoid and was told I sourced too much.

Fast forward to today and I would like to illustrate a book on events from the wild west - common knowledge stuff where all those involved in the events are long gone. Some would be lesser known stories...like of failed gun fighters for instance and others wildly known (e.g. select events from Jesse James outlaw days). All of these I have learned about through secondary sources (blogs and TV programs primarily).

What would your thoughts be with respect to sources? If it is something that I learned from Blog "A" but there are 20 other blogs or online articles where the same basic story is told...what do I source or is it even needed?

The stories I am interested in are just general interesting fact type stuff you might find on a "Top 5 unknown gunfighters" list you might see on buzzfeed or something similar.

Thanks in advance. Sorry if this is verboten...I asked this question on another forum and they pulled the thread because they said it could cause them liability issues...which seemed a bit silly to me but I guess...

No. Generally, facts and utilitarian language can't receive copyright protection. Facts about the natural world or current and past events may be discovered, but that discovery isn't an act of authorship that the law deems worthy enough to protect. https://www.newmediarights.org/business_models/artist/are_facts_copyrighted

I hope this answers your question.  Good luck with your writing.  jt
Be who you are...not everyone will like you but those that matter will. jt

Offline ktulutoo

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Re: The question of sourcing
« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2021, 12:33:58 AM »
Thank you Heartsongsdiary, I very much appreciate your informative response!

Offline bbruise

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Re: The question of sourcing
« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2021, 01:15:07 PM »
You say you come from an academic background,  but don't seem to be making a distinction between primary and secondary sources.  Having 20 blogs telling the same basic story doesn't make it 20 times more credible,  just that 19 people are copying the story from the first.  This must especially be an issue with such myth making as the American wild west. I would be more concerned about the credibility of your sources. 

Offline ktulutoo

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Re: The question of sourcing
« Reply #4 on: December 31, 2021, 03:54:17 PM »
"You say you come from an academic background,  but don't seem to be making a distinction between primary and secondary sources."

Not sure why the shade is necessary - I didn't make the distinction because it is implicit in my question.

For instance, if I want to illustrate the story of the Donner Party, and I am talking in broad strokes, then can I safely assume that it is common knowledge that they were part of a wagon train, got snowed in at the foot of a mountain range and had to resort to cannibalism? Do I need to choose a secondary source where I picked up some facts that fleshed-out the story? Or do I need to research for a primary, say a journal entry, survivor account, original news paper article, etc.?

"Having 20 blogs telling the same basic story doesn't make it 20 times more credible,  just that 19 people are copying the story from the first."

That somewhat misses the point of my question while also wanting me to respond "exactly!". I am not as concerned with accuracy in the question I pose because the facts I would be retelling are broadly known hence the retelling on multiple fronts...so then which would I choose if I needed to - Blog 1, 6, 17?

I do not intend to drill down into very specific details. And to your point, if they are coloured by time and myth then it makes it even more questionable what the source for said story / myth would be.

What I meant with respect to the blog / TV reference is if there are a plethora of "sources" (e.g. blogs, tv programs) from which I have re-read or re-heard about the story, and they all tell the basic story, then do I need to show a source for my understanding of the story and what would that be?

To use the Donner party example again, in this case a primary source would presumably be either the journal of a survivor or of a rescuer i.e. a direct participant / witness, or the first newspaper article reporting the story (if I can find one). Personally I recall first being told by my Mom when young. I remember this clearly because, aside from some dated Bugs Bunny cartoons with him in a cauldron having been captured by "savages", I had no real understanding of cannibalism until that point. So I knew the basic story my whole life...but only later was it fleshed-out for me, meaning I learned it was due to bad advice from the the trail leader or that rescuers discovered human bones in a stew pot and so on. So who / what do I source or do I need to?

Another way to put it would be: How do you know that Wyatt Earp won the gunfight at the OK Corral? Can you provide me a source for that knowledge? Is it needed? What would the "trigger" for sourcing be? Could I talk about the gunfight with no issue but if I read and include that Wyatt skipped breakfast that morning because he was too anxious to eat, would that need a source? Therein is my issue.

I think perhaps some confusion is on my part...what I am imagining is, again, broad strokes story-wise with the illustrations carrying a lot of the weight as well...so for each story maybe a page or two. I am interested in macabre stories from the old west but I wasn't planning to drill down much more than the "headline" facts if you will.

So perhaps your point is it doesn't matter - some form of source (primary or secondary) is required regardless?
« Last Edit: December 31, 2021, 04:02:57 PM by ktulutoo »

Offline Heartsongsdiary

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Re: The question of sourcing
« Reply #5 on: December 31, 2021, 05:04:07 PM »
Primary sources are original and originated from the event they refer to. They are not reviews, analyses, or critiques of events that occurred in the past. They are first-hand information.

Secondary sources are summaries, critiques, opinions, and analyses. They are written by people who did not witness, or have any direct part to play in the event they are describing. The information they contain is based on primary sources, and is the author's interpretation of the event/subject they are covering.

The following information deals with primary sources.


Chronicling America is a searchable digital collection of historic newspaper pages from 1777-1963 sponsored jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress.

Included in the website is the Directory of US Newspapers in American Libraries, a searchable index to newspapers published in the United States since 1690, which helps researchers identify what titles exist for a specific place and time, and how to access them.

https://guides.loc.gov/chronicling-america-jesse-james


Again, best of luck with your writing.  jt
Be who you are...not everyone will like you but those that matter will. jt

Offline ktulutoo

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Re: The question of sourcing
« Reply #6 on: December 31, 2021, 06:30:54 PM »
Thanks again Heartsongsdiary! I appreciate the clarity and information.

Offline bbruise

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Re: The question of sourcing
« Reply #7 on: January 01, 2022, 03:08:06 PM »
I think I misunderstood your original question or you misunderstood my reply. 

Offline ktulutoo

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Re: The question of sourcing
« Reply #8 on: January 01, 2022, 04:33:06 PM »
"I think I misunderstood your original question or you misunderstood my reply. "

And then I hit you with the most verbose reply post I have written in sometime! At any rate all good to me. Take care.

Offline piercewelsh

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Re: The question of sourcing
« Reply #9 on: January 06, 2022, 01:21:23 PM »
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