“Consider the Source”

In a time filled with speculations, tweets, Facebook posts, sound bites and 24 hour news cycles, it is easy to become lazy about identifying sources. We hear so much about “an insider” or “someone at the company” that we can forget that actual source material remains important. At the moment I am reading a history of the immigration policy of the United States from 1924-1965. One Mighty and Irresistible Tide by Jia Lynn Yang, copyright 2020, is, I am happy to report well edited.

But more important in the present climate of half baked ideas and carelessly thrown out opinions, Yang has not only done her research but also included endnotes and a thorough bibliography. This allows the reader to check the author’s sources of information and, if desired, read them for herself. Footnotes may annoy readers since they “affect the layout of the page.” Endnotes may annoy readers since “the readers have to move back and forth between the main text and the endnotes.” And in both cases the reader can forgo reading them. A bibliography can seem like a lengthy boast of the author to intimidate the reader about the writer’s lengthy reading.

But after seeing too many poorly edited, poorly sourced books lately, I am grateful for the opportunity a writer such as Yang presents. I don’t have to read any further about immigration, nor do I have to question Yang’s conclusions. But she has provided me with the sources she has used. She welcomes me with her endnotes and bibliography to explore the subject further to my heart’s content. I might draw different conclusions from the same sources, but I will know she has thought deeply about them before reaching her own.

21 thoughts on ““Consider the Source”

  1. Consider the source: Always good advice.

    And now, in the time of the psychopath president, even more important.

    Crap detection is essential and immediately discounting anything that comes from any tRump tainted source (however formerly reputable) is an unfortunate necessity.

    Thank-you Republicans for destroying faith in America. You have made Putin very happy.


  2. I have usually worked with in-text citations for a list of references, but have been starting to appreciate the simplicity of footnotes! You are right, it is super useful to be able to see the full source at a glance.


  3. We sadly live in an instant world Elizabeth. Where many people don’t necessarily think or check the source of the information they’re reading. That’s why there is so much viral news which is total nonsense.


  4. having been a student at University in my later years I know the anguish of the reference models, each department seems to use a different style! Heaven forbid your “commas” were in the wrong place…some departments even had their very own style, which was even more confusing….

    Big red X’s scattered through if you got it wrong with comments, that certainly terrified you and often the marker would say 10% deducted due to wrong style…


  5. This is something I enjoy about actual books that have been well-researched. I like being aware of the work that has gone into the text that I am reading, which, I think escapes people sometimes when they are reading things online and on e-readers. The physical weight of books, the pages of appendices, notes, and citations helps me appreciate the time, effort, and dedication that an author has put into the work I hold in my hand.


    1. You have just nailed why I can’t stand e readers. I knew something about them made me annoyed, but you are right that it is the inability to constantly and easily consult the notes and bibliography. By the way, Isabel Wilkerson’s second book is just as researched and well written as her first if you haven’t read it.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m reading Caste, now!
    The Warmth of Other Suns is one of my most favorite books of all time, so when I learned Isabel Wilkerson was coming out with a new book this year, I hurried to reserve a library copy. When I did, I was one of three people and the library had yet to receive their copies. Now there are over 700 people waiting to read about 86 copies in the system!!


    1. Caste had two profound affects on me. First an intellectual thrill that suddenly so many things (like Trump voters and Greeks going from black to white in my lifetime)made sense. Then a renewed heartache that has always been there around this nation and its obsession with pigment.


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