Primary and Secondary Research Materials and Your Query Letter

Primary and Secondary Research Materials and Your Query Letter


Henry Ford once said that history is bunk. History is bunk became the epitome, the standard, the benchmark for demonstrating one’s idiocy. How could anybody say that history is bunk? We have been told from day one that if you do not learn from history, you will be condemned to repeat it. However, today it’s becoming history is becoming bank by de facto because. If that’s the proper way to put it, because people don’t want to do any research, they don’t want to look into history.

So what is. If you forget the past, you’re condemned to repeat it. Well, we are forgetting the past because we’re too lazy or perhaps we don’t know how to remember the past. As writers, let’s give a real world example. Let’s say we have this wonderful idea that we want to pitch to a magazine editor. So we’re going to get a query letter, a query letter going. That query letter has to be as well documented, as well researched as the article promises to be.

The editor is not going to accept a level of scholarship. That’s sub grade because he knows she knows that she’s going to get something sub grade if the query letter itself is below par. History is bunk. Well, all right, so how do we accurately how do we how do we satisfy an editor’s requirements? The first thing is that we recognize the difference between secondary and primary material. Wikipedia, for example, is secondary source material. It cites other material, which is primary.

So, for example, let’s say let’s say we have an entry in Wikipedia on Jack London’s called The Wild and they summarize this or that. Well, fine. But you cannot cite to Wikipedia. You must look up the call of the wild in hard copy, whatever edition, whatever publisher you choose, you have to look it up in a hard copy and cite to the original book. It doesn’t have to be the first edition. That would be nice, but doesn’t have to be.

But you can’t cite to Wikipedia. Wikipedia is a collection of in general secondary sources. They have the best. The best use of Wikipedia is to look at their references, where they cite usually to primary. To be fair, to be complete, Wikipedia does have some things original to their group. I have submitted writing and photos and videos to Wikipedia and to Wikimedia Commons. Let’s just call this the Wikipedia group, I have submitted original videos and source and photos and text that are original, I put them in the public domain so people don’t have to site to me.

They don’t want to say that I’m the author, but in reality, even in the public domain, I am still the originator. I am still the creator. I am still primary. Wikipedia is secondary. So let me pause this, OK, I said the best use of Wikipedia is there are provision there lists and usually of their sources, these usually track back to primary sources. Well, you’re going to discover let’s say you’re still trying to write that query letter.

You’re going to discover in those lists a whole bunch of books that you may have never heard of or magazines. So how do you gain access to that? Well, your local library may not have any of those materials. If you’re very lucky, you can locate the library that does have that with just a simple Google search. If you’re very lucky, the librarian will photocopy and fax back to those pages that you need. Don’t count on it. What you are hoping to do is to find books that are not on reserve that do circulate, that can be had by an inter library loan.

First step, go to your local library, become a, you know, enlist, become a member, whatever, see if you can do it, interlibrary loan to get those books that Wikipedia cites. If the local county library doesn’t have them, consider getting at a major university and you can do this online is to become, say, an associate member will usually cost you about one hundred dollars a year, become an associate member of the university. That will give you privileges, not the complete privileges that students and staff enjoy, but some.

And you may be able to do this interlibrary loan thing and get the books that you need as an associate. You may also be able to get access on to certain online resources, which will help. However, many books do not circulate or are too rare or too at risk to have them being sent to other libraries, in that case, you’re going to have to travel. To a particular library that has those books. Now, at this point, we have to start you have to start considering is this article, is this Querrey worth the travel?

Because query letters to magazines, maybe 10 percent of what you send out as is accepted. So if it’s convenient to travel, if you’re going to this distance anyway, OK, take a visit to that library, but confirmed before you go hand that those books are on the shelf, because I have found out many times that I will look them up and they are gone. They’ve been stolen and they’ve been they’ve disappeared. Sometimes I’ve found that pages that I’ve needed have been cut out with a razor blade and taken.

So just know before you go, this gets even deeper. Because. There are materials that are sometimes beyond reserve, and that’s into special collections, where one library may have the only copies of what you need for months. OK, let’s continue this later. But again, think about you may have the greatest city in the world for an article, but as you get in in.

By thomasfarley01

Business writer and graphic arts gadfly.

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