PowerPoint Document Version

art courtesy of
Janet Preslar, FrActivity

Secondary Sources


  • Secondary sources are those that are responses to the primary source - similar to your own paper.
  • These are scholarly analyses of the work, usually by college professors, literary critics and doctorate candidates.
  • Used as support for your papers.
  • Usually focus on a thematic element in story.
    • symbolism
    • irony
    • conflict


  • Plot Reductions
  • Biographies
  • Critical Responses to the Story
  • Thematic Responses to the Story
  • Comparative Analyses Between Stories
  • Thematic Overviews of Author's Canon
  • Genre Critiques
  • Internet Sources


  • Explains Basic Aspects of Story
    • Plot
    • Characters
    • Symbolism
    • Conflicts
    • Irony
  • Not a lot of Critical Analysis, but may help you understand story.


  • Analysis of author, including:
    • personal life
    • professional career
    • works written
  • Can be helpful in determining thematic links from work to work.
  • May also provide insight into genesis of a particular work.


  • These are reliable, well-supported analyses by scholars which focus on Critical Analyses of a story, such as Reader Response, Formalist, Deconstruction, etc.
  • Will usually focus on a particular approach, giving numerous examples from the primary text.
  • Most will be listed in indices such as Walker's.
  • Chosen to accommodate classes on this campus; accepted by most instructors.
  • See Critical Approaches presentation.
  • Ask the reference desk for help.


  • These are reliable, well-supported analyses by scholars which focus on Thematic Analyses of a story, i.e. symbolism, conflict, irony, etc.
  • Will usually focus on a particular approach, giving numerous examples from the primary text.
  • Most will be listed in indices such as Walker's.
  • Chosen to accommodate classes on this campus; accepted by most instructors.
  • See Thematic Approaches presentation.
  • Ask the reference desk for help.


  • These are comparisons between two works, usually by the same author or on the same subject.
  • Can be useful if focusing on the author or the thematic approach.
  • May require reader's knowledge of another work or series of works.


  • Covers author's "canon" or body of work.
  • Focuses on a particular aspect of author's work, i.e. Poe and death.
  • May not have detail for a particular story you are working on, but may be generally applied to any story.
  • Also good for understanding a particular Thematic Approach.


  • Focus on genre, rather than a particular work or author.
    • Horror
    • Classical Literature
    • Satire
    • Feminist Literature
  • May offer some insight into author's place in genre, but is unlikely to examine any particular work in depth.


  • Numerous sources, some reliable, some not.
  • May have various origins, some more acceptable than others.
    • Keep in mind that most interviews such as that you might find on YouTube are going to be listed by a title created by the interviewer or, more likely, will also be credited to the interviewer him or herself. The quotations and the information are not credited to the person being interviewed. Consider that if this were an article in Rolling Stone magazine written by Jan Wenner in which he interviewed Kurt Cobain, the citation would be (Wenner), not (Cobain).
    • College Course Postings: reliable
    • College Student Theses: reliable
    • Thematic Web sites: reliable
    • Magazine Articles: can vary, depending on publication...ask instructor.


  • customwritingtips.com: Poorly written, poorly spelled, and has wrong information
  • E-notes, SparkNotes, Monarch Notes, Cliff Notes: These are synopses for grade school and high school. Read the work yourself.
  • Shmoop University: Not a university, (it's Shmoop.COM, not .edu), this site is primarily for primary and high school students: too rudimentary for our purposes.
  • Wikipedia: unreliable...Wikipedia allows anyone to post anything they believe as fact, with little or no review of facts or statistics. Until they peer review their submissions, I will not accept any Wikipedia reference as a valid resource. You may be surprised to find the list of resources at the bottom of a Wikipedia article may yield a source that is very close to or EXACTLY the same as the Wikipedia article. Use that original source. You may use Wikipedia as a starting point to your research, but if you find something there, find a reliable resource through our databases for the paper you will submit to me
  • Fan Web sites: unreliable...can be too esoteric or are designed to extol the virtues of a work or artist...or even create/promote legend.
  • Publisher's Promos: notoriously unreliable...no one criticizes a book they are selling.
  • Why not to choose the sites from non-educational sources.
    • Fan sites tend not to focus on literary themes and techniques.
    • Public posting cites like sing365, AZLyrics etc. may be uselful to get a snapshot of lyrics (doublecheck...they are often wrong), but citation on the Works Cited page MUST have original publication information: author(s), name of song, album it was on, publisher/record company, year, media. Find it.
    • Publisher's promos are hype, designed to sell books rather than illuminate.
    • Magazine articles can vary, depending on nature of magazine and author's credentials.
    • Other thematic sites can vary in quality...be careful.
  • Documentation required:
    • Online items need the following information: author (if available); title of work/article; name of website, which is generally the publisher unless a separate publisher is listed at the bottom of the page, which in that case you would identify the publisher separately; the date it was last updated, again usually listed at the bottom of the page; and the date that you accessed the material, which will be in parentheses. There is an example on my “Works Cited Example” for the Stephen King “Why I Wrote 'The Green Mile'” entry.

    King, Stephen. "Why I Wrote The Green Mile." Stephen King Web Page, stephenking.com August, 1996. (October 3, 1996)

    • Easy to find. It's your money.
      • writemyenglishpaper.org
      • writemypapers.org?
      • essayleaders.net
      • mypapergeek.net
      • customwritings.com
    • Get caught using these, and it's a FAIL on both the paper and the class grade. DO YOUR OWN WORK.
      • Do NOT give me URL in Works Cited.
      • Do NOT cite in text by URL.
      • If all you have is a URL, it is not a valid site.

    In-text citation is simply the author's LAST name and the page number (for books) (Jones 34), line numbers (for lyric/poetry) (Prine 3-6), or act and scene (for plays) (Sakespeare II:3) in parentheses: no commas, no p. or pg. . Separate multiple authors by comma (Jones, Smith 34). Cite multiple works by the same author by title, capitalizing and quoting ("Survivor Type" 12) or italicizing (The Stand 645) the title according to the type of work it is.


    • The Bible (as most religious works) was written in verse, so it is cited by chapter and verse, with a colon as a separator. First citation should include Bible version (there are many). "JUDGE not, that ye be not judged." (NIV, Matthew 7:1). Each subsequent reference only requires chapter and verse unless you change versions. "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?" (Matthew 7:3).


    • Besides direct quotation of secondary sources, resources can also be paraphrased in the context of your essay. However, there are several things to consider
    • Paraphrasing is intended to supplement the information already presented directly through primary and secondary direct quotation.
    • Paraphrase material must be introduced with the author's name and the paraphrased section must be followed with a citation just as one would with direct quotation. For example, the following passage was written by Jones on page 34 of her article:
      • Often a controversy arises as to what may have really happened during any war or conflict. What is deemed as history is often determined by those who survived to write it. In other words, history is written by the victors.
      You can either paraphrase or use direct quotation, but both must be cited, (and you must use at least one directly quoted piece in each body paragragh).
      • Jones declares that history is written by the winners (Jones 34).
      • Jones points out that "history is often determined by those who survived" (Jones 34).
    • Depending on the instructor, the amount of allowed paraphrased or directly quoted material may vary. Be sure to check with your instructor as to the levels of each. For this course specifically, you are required to have a minimum of one direct quotation from a primary AND secondary source in every body paragraph. Paraphrasing may also be added to the body paragraphs.
    • In any case, you must still begin and end your paragraphs with your words, not quoted or paraphrased text.


    • Citation of more than one work by the same author(s) in your paper will be by TITLE of the works.
    • Any citation that includes a title must quote, italicize or underline the title to be consistent with your use of the title in the text or your paper
    • Use secondary sources in each paragraph of the body of the essay as support for your contentions, not instead of them, nor instead of primary source.
    • You do not have to agree with the source, but substantiate your point - or support theirs - by using the primary source.
    • Use the same quotation formats as you would with primary sources...author and page (Jones 34).

    © T. T. Eiland, 1998-2014
    Last modified: December 10, 2014