2

Suppose paper 1 establishes that roses are red, and cites paper 2 for the statement that violets are blue. Apart from the blueness of violets, no other results from paper 2 are relevant for paper 1, nor for my own essay.

How should my essay refer to these two assertions?

I see three possible options:

  1. Citing the primary source for each statement: Roses are red.[1] Violets are blue.[2]
  2. Citing each relevant source for each statement: Roses are red.[1] Violets are blue.[1,2]
  3. Downgrading the second statement to a secondary citation: Roses are red.[1] 2 had earlier established that violets are blue.[1]

Is there a generally accepted preference for one of these?

  • 5
    I'd go with 1. Why complicate things? – Luigi Apr 21 '16 at 23:30
  • 1
    Normally you should cite the primary source. The only reason I would prefer to cite a secondary source is if it is more readable than the primary source, in which case I would cite both. – Thomas supports Monica Apr 22 '16 at 1:41
1

It really depends on the context and the reasons why you feel that sharing such assertions contributes to your own essay.

Generally, the first option you mentioned is best, which is citing each assertion according to its original source: Roses are red.[1] Violets are blue.[2]

In some cases, if you have no access to source 2 cited in 1, it may be acceptable to cite only 1, particularly if 1 is a meta-analysis or a review of existing assertions: 1 notes that roses are red and violets are blue.

Similarly, if you are using a direct quote that was itself directly quoted in source 1, it is generally acceptable to simply explicitly make note of this if it is difficult to track down the original source 2: "violets are blue"[2, cited in 1]

Your second option could falsely imply that both source 1 and 2 independently demonstrated that violets are blue (which they do not in your example), and your third option misleadingly cites 1 when you have already cited 2 in the sentence, which is confusing to the reader.

  • Thank you @electroducer for your comments > It really depends on the context and the reasons why you feel that sharing such assertions contributes to your own essay. What I'm trying to convey is, "The credit for the research on violets goes to [2], but if you want to read more about either of the two assertions, [1] is the place to start." – tyomitch Apr 22 '16 at 12:03
  • (Sorry for the garbled markup in the comment above; it seems that I don't have permissions to use newlines and blockquotes in my comments.) – tyomitch Apr 22 '16 at 13:54
  • Honestly, @tyomitch, I think what you have written in the above comment is similar to what I would write if I wanted to convey that. – electroducer Apr 25 '16 at 8:01
  • @electroducer answer is good because it also deals with the related issue of how to handle not having adequate access to assess the sources. In option [1], the reader must assume you either read both, or that you are comfortable that secondary source did not accidentally or willfully mis-color their interpretation. – Carol May 5 '16 at 14:34

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