At this point, you should have decided on an issue you want to explore for your research project and begun to find scholarly sources you may use for research. If you have not done that yet, it is time.
Pick one of your sources — a journal article, an essay published in an anthology, a chapter in a book — and read it thoroughly. We’ll call this Source A. Look specifically for places where the author (or authors) quotes or paraphrases another scholarly work. Copy the sentence before the quotation or paraphrase, the quotation or paraphrase itself, and then any comments that the author makes directly in response to or by using that quotation or paraphrase.
Note: a quotation or paraphrase will have a specific citation, complete with a page number. If you see a citation that merely includes a name and a date or a name and a title, it is a citation of an entire source, and it will not be useful for this assignment.
Once you have copied the quotation or paraphrase and the sentences around it, write an explanation of how you think your source uses its source material. What function does the quotation serve? How does this quotation help the author make a point, and how does that point contribute to the source’s overall argument? (You need to identify what the overall argument is, of course.)
Find the earlier source, which we will call Source B, then find the passage your initial source quoted or paraphrased. This should not be difficult, presuming the quotation or paraphrase was properly cited. Read enough of Source B so that you understand the quotation or paraphrase in context, and understand the argument Source B is making. Identify Source B’s thesis or main argument. Then, repeat the procedure for Step One for this source: find a place where the author quotes or paraphrases another scholarly work, which we will call Source C, and copy the sentence before the quotation or paraphrase, the quotation or paraphrase itself, and then any comments that the author makes. Then write an explanation of how this source uses its source material. Start by offering a brief explanation of this source’s focus and argument. Then, consider the same questions as in Step One: What function does the quotation from Source C serve? How would the specific argument be different, or would it even be possible, if that earlier source did not exist?
For Source C, do not find a quotation of another source. Instead, simply write a paragraph in which you briefly explain its focus and overall argument.
Now that you have examined how each source made use of its predecessor, change your perspective. Starting on a new page, introduce the topic, then write an explanation of how each source contributed to your understanding of it and what the connections are between them, starting with source C and then going forward in time. Some of the questions you might want to consider:
How much do the sources agree or conflict? Sometimes a source becomes a kind of established wisdom on a topic, and later authors work within the parameters the earlier source has sketched out, building on them rather than conflicting with them. At other times, a later source disputes the ideas or findings of an earlier source, or an author even writes in opposition to a predecessor. Finally, quite often a later source takes the an idea from an earlier source and goes in a different direction with it.
When you consider all three sources, how widely do they range? Sometimes, you will find sources have focused on the same relatively narrow research question, with each scholar offering a new contribution to or a different take on the field’s understanding of it. At other times, the connections from one source to the next are less extensive, or are even tangential.
How much time elapsed between sources overall? In some fields, scholarship passes its use-by date quite quickly, while in others a source may remain influential for decades.
Do you see any indication of a source having ongoing influence? The most obvious example is when you find that Source A quoted not just Source B but Source C, too. But often the influence is less direct, though still discernible.
To support your points, paraphrase and quote (with citations) from the three articles and comment on the paraphrases and quotations as necessary. Always set up a quotation substantively, then comment on it to make your point, and cite it parenthetically. Never expect a quotation to make your point for you: you cannot assume your readers will see everything in it that you see, let alone see it the same way. Note that you are submitting only this section to your peers, so it must make sense on its own. Include a works cited or references page containing all of the sources.
Once you have completed Step Three, go back and put an appropriate title at the top of the page where it begins.