Finding, Using, and Citing Evidence

One of the core humanities skills which the VHC hopes to promote through humanities classes is the ability to find and use evidence critically and effectively. The increasing availability of online digitial sources makes the ability to locate, analyze, and utilize sources more critical than ever in the modern world.

In academic fields, source material is generally broken down into three broad categories:

  • PRIMARY: Evidence (lab results, business profit reports, original works of art, historical documents, etc.)
  • SECONDARY: Interpretation (works based on the analysis of primary sources, such as scholarly journal articles or monographs.
  • TERTIARY: Summaries (textbooks, encyclopedias, many websites, etc.)

A fuller discussion of these categories and how they relate to specific disciplines can be found at the Virginia Tech University Libraries' website (

Below are some guides which GBC Faculty have put together to help students learn to find and use source material in various contexts.

Using Tertiary Sources

Tertiary sources--textbooks, encyclopedias, and similar works--are the kinds of "evidence" of which many students are most aware when entering college. In college, however, students are confronted with having to shift focus to using primary and secondary sources. Identifying both what is and how to locate such sources are some of the most difficult skills students must master.

In this short video, GBC Professor Dr. Frank Daniels discusses the proper uses of tertiary sources such as textbooks as a means to identify and then locate primary (evidence) and secondary (interpretation) sources.

[contributed by Dr. Frank Daniels]

Click to view video in separate page if above player not working

Academic Integrity: Avoiding Plagiarism through Citation Practices

Citation practices extend to more than just a bibliography style; the proper use of information taken from the source has to be considered as well.

This video, which I use as part of a tutorial on academic integrity practices, covers the basic purposes of citation, compares four major citation styles (MLA, APA, Chicago, and CSE), and looks at examples of quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing sources properly.

It is coupled with a quiz which contains some questions where students are asked to identify the proper use of citations and paraphrases from examples.

[contributed by Dr. Scott A. Gavorsky]

Finding, Using, and Citing Evidence