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Documenting sources with footnotes

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As well as providing evidence for any claims you make, it is important to indicate exactly where you came across this evidence. This is where footnotes come in. One reason for providing footnotes is that if someone wanted to verify your evidence they could do so without too much difficulty.

Look at the footnotes from the sample paragraph.

From what type of sources has the student gathered his evidence? From primary documents? From secondary sources?

  1. LaFaber, Walter, America, Russia and the Cold War 1945-1984, fifth edition (New York, 198 pg. 38.
  2. Kennan, George F, Telegram from the American Embassy in Moscow, 22 Feb. 1946. Reprinted in Copland and Hancock (ed.) World War II: Crushing of the Axis - A Course Handbook. (Melbourne 2000).
  3. LaFaber, Walter, America, Russia and the Cold War 1945-1984, pg 40.
  4. Churchill's Fulton speech, "The Sinews of Peace" 5 March 1946. Reprinted in Copland and Hancock (ed.) World War II: Crushing of the Axis - A Course Handbook . (Melbourne , 2000), pg 214-215.
  5. Stalin's interview with Pravda, 13 March 1946. Reprinted in Copland and Hancock (ed.) World War II: Crushing of the Axis - A Course Handbook . (Melbourne , 2000), pg 214-217.
  6. Ibid

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The student has drawn this evidence from both:

primary documents (in the subject handbook) e.g. Kennan, George F, Telegram from the American Embassy in Moscow, 22 Feb. 1946. Reprinted in Copland and Hancock (ed.) World War II: Crushing of the Axis - A Course Handbook. (Melbourne 2000).
secondary sources e.g. LaFaber, Walter, America, Russia and the Cold War 1945-1984, fifth edition (New York, 1985) pg. 38.

This is how your lecturer explains the way both types of sources can be used in an essay.

Ian: In our first-year assignments we don't expect students to be gathering primary source material from archives. Much of the primary source material you will need to draw on will be in the subject handbooks and these are a rich resource for your essays.

But there is another repository of this material: secondary sources like textbooks, articles, etc. These texts will contain masses of evidence in the form of statistics, quotations, accounts of events. A lot of this will be primary source material which you can also draw on for your essays.

So in a secondary text, where Bloggs for example is discussing why the British appeased the Germans in the 1930s, there may be a nice quote from Chamberlain (the British PM at the time) which says: "We need to appease the Germans". And so this becomes primary source material that you are able to draw on for your own purposes.

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