Overlapping Sources: Recombining Evidence and Reasoning
When constructing a scholarly argument involving overlapping secondary sources, you must clearly identify your sources as the origins of specific things being said about your topic. They are the "actors" in your drama. You also must be very careful when using your sources' key terms. For instance, political scientists in recent years have begun studying countries where the central government fails to control its territory and tribal or criminal organizations begin to fight one another for power. Some political scientists call these nations-without-governments "failed states." You also might find such nations-without-governments called "failed states" or "anarchic states" or "gang-ruled states" or "tribal areas," depending on the researchers' reasoning. Precisely because this is a topic under debate, differing sources may be using different terms to describe what they are studying. The significance of those differences can be something your thesis can be explaining if that could affect the way these researchers were talking to each other professionally. If your sources are using more than one term to describe what they're talking about, point it out and you've got a thesis.
Remember to analyze your sources' conclusions to separate their evidence (AKA "data") from the steps of reasoning they use to make sense of the evidence. Once you have several sources evidence and reasoning processes laid out before you on a separate sheet, you can experiment with creatively recombining their evidence and their reasoning. Here's how the first stage looks, assuming the very worst research luck imaginable--you have found three sources whose conclusions do not agree, using different data and different reasoning processes:
|Source 1 Conclusion||Which is Based on Data 1||Understood by Reasoning 1|
|Source 2 Conclusion||Which is Based on Data 2||Understood by Reasoning 2|
|Source 3 Conclusion||Which is Based on Data 3||Understood by Reasoning 3|
Play with the raw material they give you before the conclusions are reached. What happens when you recombine data and or reasoning like this?
|Data 1||Data 2||Reasoning 3||New Conclusion (based on applying reasoning found in one source to data found in two other sources)|
|Data 2||Data 3||Reasoning 1||New Conclusion (based on using Source 1's reasoning to interpret data found in Sources 2 and 3)|
|Data 1||Data 2||Reasoning 2||New Conclusion (based on combining data from two sources with reasoning found in one source)|
|Data 1||Your Own Observation from the Primary Source if Available||Reasoning 1||New Conclusion (based on creative use of direct observation of primary source to provide new data to existing reasoning)|
|Data 1||Data 2||Your Own Change to Reasoning 1, 2, or 3 if You Can Argue it is Sound||New Conclusion (based on creative reasoning applied to existing data)|