1. Students are often confused unnecessarily about primary and secondary/tertiary sources. Simply put: No encyclopedias, almanac, gazetteer, textbook, or other general compilation of information is an acceptable primary source. In his Writing: Process and Structure, Pinnells states:
A primary source is a work containing original thinking or experimentation carried out by the author in person. A secondary source is a work reporting on or analyzing a primary source. (Tertiary sources, reports on reports on reports, are also common) (362).
You should always attempt to use a primary source over a secondary or tertiary one. Any time there is analysis or report on a primary source some form of bias is present. This bias might not change the primary source intent, but then again, it might.
When you are dealing with on-line sources, you may find it difficult to determine if the source is primary or secondary. For on-line sources, you may not use on-line encyclopedias. However, you may use sources which report or outline primary sources. An example might be the HNSource's databases at the University of Kansas or the myriad databases available at the Library of Congress.
2. I use standards of the Modern Language Association when evaluating your papers' citations. Therefore, you probably should use these standards too. The library has a copy of the MLA Handbook available in the reference section. MLA is also the citation format you use writing your English class papers. In a nutshell:
a. If possible, incorporate most of your citation in the text itself. For example, if you are quoting Lowi & Ginsberg (not an acceptable primary source, by the way) on page 225, you might use in the text:
...the New Deal of the Roosevelt administration changed the face of America. Lowi reports that these days "changed the size and character of the national government that they constitute a moment in American history equivalent to the founding or the Civil War (225).
and in your "Works Cited" page,
Lowi, Theodore J., and Benjamin Ginsberg. American Government: Freedom and Power, Third edition. New York: W.W. Norton, 1994.
b. You might want to vary your attribution style from time to time. Using the example above:
...the New Deal of the Roosevelt "changed the size and character of the national government that they constitute a moment in American history equivalent to the founding or the Civil War (Lowi, 225).
And use the same citation on "Works Cited".
c. The above two (as well as the example in topic III. 1., above) are for direct quotations. If you paraphrase or use original concepts presented in another's work, you still must attribute that source. For example, if you gathered information from the Serow text book (again, not an acceptable primary source) regarding the character of the American electorate, but you did not quote this information, you still must attribute it:
...unlike elections and politics in other countries, those in the United States tend to focus more on the candidate and less on the party (Serow, 428). In your Works Cited:
Serow, Ann G., W.Wayne Shannon and Everett C. Ladd. The American Polity Reader, Second edition. New York: W.W.Norton, 1993.
d. In attributing electronic on-line sources, we'll use the following standards:
If the source is software (a program or a local database such as a CD-ROM), you are to attribute it by giving the name of the software (or the author, if available), the format, date of publication, publisher, and location:
Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia, Release 6. Sun Valley, CA: Creative Technology,1993
In your text, you should reference the article (or program) title and page number (if it's available).
If the source is an on-line (internet) database of some source (ex: Library of Congress), you should give the URL (address), directory names, date of access and file name of the source. For example:
Library of Congress LC-Marvel. url=http://lcweb.loc.gov/exhibits/G.Address/ga.html. Gettysburg Address, access date: 7/15/95.
3. The bottom line in dealing with attribution and sources is this: If you did not originate the thought or do the research yourself, you must let the reader know who did the original work. At the same time, don't go overboard. If you attribute every paraphrased sentence in a paper, you're not doing much original thought (a requirement -- original thought, that is).
I expect your writing to be factual and accurate. You should not use an emotional appeal in your factual writing. Lay out the facts and your interpretation, but allow the reader to draw his or her own conclusions. This does not mean that you cannot use the word "I" in your writing; however, you should not necessarily use the phrase "I believe..." since this would be assumed from the simple fact you are writing this paper yourself. The only exception to the restriction on opinion is where the assignment is for an "editorial."