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This came up in a paper recently submitted and commented on by the tutor. The paper relied on, and separately referenced, multiple separately authored essays in a single volume ("edited by...") on a single subject.

A comment returned was "... perhaps too much reliance on a single source (though the defining volume) ...".

This was a surprise as I thought that the separately authored (and credited) essays would each be considered a separate source (though published together).

Is this, perhaps, field dependent?

(This question is not in any way going to lead to any complaint about the remark whatsoever. I just would like to know - as I said, I believed otherwise.)

  • In math, in the US, I'd say that you didn't exactly have a single source, but, well, somewhat. That is, there would possibly/likely have been a single editorial choice of contributors, and about viewpoints, context, and so on. Again, in math, in the US, conference proceedings and other edited volumes, even with many authors, generally do have a consistent viewpoint... for better or for worse. – paul garrett Jul 31 at 17:06
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We could argue whether this is technically this is or isn't "the same source". More productive is to ask, "could relying strongly on multiple essays in the same edited volume be putting blinders on your thinking?", and the answer is yes.

The use of multiple, genuinely independent sources ensures you have had to engage with different perspectives on a topic: different framings of the issues; differences in terminology, methodology, conclusions/implications. If there are schisms, you are likely to have stumbled across them.

In a single edited volume, the editor is likely to have -- deliberately or accidentally -- chosen authors with the same perspectives, and therefore biases. In fact, the individual essays may well have been edited to uniformize their framing, teminology, etc. Now, in some cases the editor may have carefully reached out to include differing voices. But very often not, and you have no way of knowing unless you've looked elsewhere.

All of these things taken together mean that though it may look (from the number of different names) that you're taking a broad look at the topic, it is fairly likely to have been curated enough that this is not truly the case.

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Your question suggests that this was for a tutorial. Perhaps the tutor wished you'd looked around more, even though you found many useful separate references bound together. You can ask.

I doubt that an editor would object that this was a "single source".

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  • no sorry, it was for a class (undergraduate level) at an institution where the course, online, is run by a 'tutor' (their terminology) – davidbak Jul 31 at 23:09
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    I suggest you ask the tutor for clarification, just so you know for the future. – Ethan Bolker Aug 1 at 1:31

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