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THEATRE 321 & 322 : The Theatre ...

Your purpose

In addition to evaluating the basic author, audience, and purpose of your source, you also need to think about your purpose for the source. What kind of question are you trying to answer, and what kinds of information will you need to bring together to find an answer? 

Since research questions should be complex, you shouldn't be able to find an answer to your question in just one source. Instead, you'll need to combine facts and evidence about a historical topic with your own interpretation, claims different experts have made that might help shine light on aspects of your topic, and terms and theories others have defined that you can apply to a new area. For example, if your research question is about how theater practices changed during the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, you might want to:

  • find background information about the epidemic and typical rules and precautions, through encyclopedias and general histories.
  • find evidence of specific practices through looking at contemporary accounts and documents, or more focused historical accounts that describe theater practices in 1918.
  • see what claims experts have already been made about the theater industry's response to the epidemic, or to other crises, and decide whether to expand on or argue against those claims
  • look at what theories, terms, and frameworks other scholars have used to answer similar questions. 


Selecting sources for a purpose (C.E.E.T.)

What could a writer do with this source?

Creative Commons License
CEET is based on What could a writer do with this source? by Kristin M. Woodward/Kate L. Ganski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

What does it mean to write with sources?

Selecting relevant sources is more than finding the type of source that is required and it is more than finding a source that contains your keywords. As the researcher you will want to select sources that enable you to engage a question or a problem.

Required Sources

A list of required sources will help you envision what a good bibliography will do: show your reader the depth and breadth of your research. Gathering all of the required sources for an assignment does not substitute for engaging with sources in your writing. A well researched paper will converse with the ideas and information presented in sources.

Framing your research

Scholarly writers engage with the work of others through the strategic selection of research and ideas pertinent to the question or problem under discussion. When trying to decide if a source is pertinent to your question, it can be helpful to ask yourself: What could a writer do with this source? Could this source provide background facts or information? Could I analyze or interpret this source for my reader? Could this source refine my question or extend my thesis? Could this source be a lens for interpreting competing findings?

A paper that cites a lot of contextual sources will be a boring report. A paper that cites a lot of expert sources without including an example runs the risk of rehashing the ideas of others instead of applying the ideas of others to new questions or contexts.

CEET Activity

Think about your research question for class. What kind of information or details do you need to

  • establish the context or background information around the topic
  • provide evidence or examples that you can interpret to answer your question
  • build on or refine what other people have said about the topic
  • find a perspective, terms, or theory for considering the question

Begin trying to search for each of the kinds of information you identified. Which are easiest to find? What kinds of sources (primary, secondary, scholarly, popular, peer-reviewed articles, books, etc) are most helpful for finding each kind of information?