Chapter 10: Joining the Conversation: Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, and You

Setting the Stage: Getting the Primary and Secondary Sources into Your Introduction

Now let’s return to one of the last things we said in Chapter 9, which was a promise of what we planned to do in this chapter: “In Chapter 10, we will be examining in more detail how research can be incorporated into the thesis and the essay’s body.” Now that we have some experience developing purposeful paragraphs that balance our claims with the supporting evidence of both primary and secondary sources, let’s return to each storey of our thesis and connect our ideas to specific aspects of our researched material.


Occupy Wall Street’s Facebook group page showcases some flaws as users of the space have a difficult time breaking away from their own “villages” in order to link those global events to their local concerns. This is demonstrated by the comment field under the post “From #Ferguson to #Gaza #BLM,” wherein discussion of the event turns to users calling each other names like “idiots” and wondering aloud about the two topics are related (ex. The post “What the hell does BLM have to do with geopolitics in the Middle East?”) rather than discussing the event promoted in the original post. Such interaction in this space demonstrates that while Facebook groups do provide a useful tool for distributing information and bringing large tribes together, users often struggle to attach that awareness to action or viewpoints beyond local/personal concerns or interests. Instead of speaking to each other in an attempt to foster stronger global connections and consciousness, users often end up posting their own disconnected content and/or insulting content without the necessary conversation around the complex topics posted. The Occupy Wall Street Facebook page’s tendency to strengthen local connections while weakening links to larger social and political contexts acts as an indicator that despite the increased reach of an online community, insularity among its users is likely to affect its ability to influence governmental policy and provide a base for civilian power. As Anthony McCosker and Amelia Johns note in “Productive Provocations: Vitriolic Media, Spaces of Protest and Agonistic Outrage in the 2011 England Riots,”while examining the online discourse around the violent protests in England in 2011,  such online comments “remain almost primarily dissociated, impassioned expressions relaying a range of points of view without an internal dialogical order.” Users who wish to turn the Internet into an effective tool designed to provide a counterpoint to corrupt, dictatorial, or simply misguided governments will need to address this insularity and attempt to ensure that the broad reach of the social-media platform does not replace the broadness in scope of the movement itself. As McCosker and Johns claim, properly attuned, such dialogues “can be conceptualised as acts of multiple initiations—of a space of protest, of a constitutive public, of passionate expression of the conditions of existence, of provocations for further exchange.”

There are no hard and fast rules for incorporating scholarly support into your thesis. Some authors choose to begin by citing a scholarly source they will either examine or debate then follow the cited passage immediately with their particular thoughts or criticisms. There are many approaches that you will no doubt encounter as you gain experience and move through disciplines. When dealing with first-year writers, we prefer the approach of establishing your reading in the first and second storeys, then situating it within a larger discourse in the third storey. This ensures that your approach to your primary material is focused and comes from something you want to say about the text. Once you have established your approach, it is easier to situate it within a larger discourse without losing the specifics of the argument that make it your own.