1. FJ and G
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    FJ and G New Member

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    Primary & Secondary Sources

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by FJ and G, Sep 12, 2007.

    Obviously, a non-fiction book about history will be taken by historians more seriously if there are footnotes (or endnotes) leading to primarily primary sources of documents.

    I would, of course, like historians to take my work that I just started seriously, but also like it to appeal to "normal" readers as well.

    The subject of my book about the influence of railways on military history is so broad and covers such a large time period, that I'm afraid I can only get so many primary sources (esp. considering that much of the book will be countries other than in N. America).

    So, I'll be citing perhaps just as many secondary sources (other books) or perhaps more than primary sources.

    Is doing what I'm doing frowned upon these days? Any advice?

    This is my first non-fiction book, btw.

    Thanks!
     
  2. Domoviye
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    Domoviye Contributing Member

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    It's not heavily frowned upon because historians realize that primary sources can be hard to find. But historians prefer primary sources whenever possible. So there will bias.
    Now if you use secondary sources when you could with a bit of work get primary sources they will consider you lazy and frown on you. So if you have to drive five hours just to get half an hour with a primary source and you don't bother, while that's just being lazy.

    The best thing you can do is look online, and try to find scanned version of the source documents, and primary sources. This will cost you some money, and require talking and getting permission from a lot of university libraries and museums, but its possible. And well worth the effort.
     
  3. FJ and G
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    FJ and G New Member

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    Thanks! Appreciate the tips. My daughter is a university student so I'll check into some access.
     
  4. Weaselword
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    Weaselword Banned

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    You understand that it's usual to approach a publisher before starting a work of non-fiction, yes? Most non-fiction books are sold (on outlines, a writing sample, and the writer's credentials) before they're written.

    Assuming you've gone this route, your publisher is the person to ask.
     
  5. Domoviye
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    Domoviye Contributing Member

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    Publishers will also help you, by giving you advances so that you have money to look up primary documents.
     
  6. Funny Bunny
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    Funny Bunny Contributing Member

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    Many non fiction books are written for popular audiences. Many become best sellers-- look at Seabiscuit: An American Ledgend by Laura Hildabrant (spelling?). The work of Richard Rhodes, on the making of the Atom Bomb. Lauri Garrett's "The Coming Plague" is about virual diseases and has been selling for over 10 years. It's still in Borders. It has extensive end notes. I think the key is to write it like an adventure story. By secondary sources do you mean books and papers that have already been written? Of course. Just go to non-fiction and read the end notes of books that have already been written to see the sorts of sources they use.
     
  7. wordwizard
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    wordwizard Contributing Member

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    You should think about making it into a historical fiction book. I find those appeal to people just as much as non-fiction. Then if you can't find a source then it won't be a big deal.
     

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