context in which it was produced. In other words, information from indirect sources is only as good as our understanding of that source itself. For example, as a result of changes over the past two decades, an academic commentary such as the one by James on advertising in the 1970s may not be precisely relevant to contemporary concerns. There is no general rule to apply to such analysis of sources, except that we must always think about the context (who obtained the information; when, where, and how the information was arrived at) as well as the text (what the information is).
For example, imagine you are watching a television program on advertising. The host makes some comments on nationalistic commercials, saying that they always produce an emotional reaction and that is why they are effective. Is this source useful for an academic investigation? If you answered no, then you would, in some circumstances, be correct. But the important question to ask is 'Why?'. Let us contrast this hypothetical television program with a more usual source: academic writing. The trustworthiness of academic writing is based on the idea that the person doing the writing is an expert in that area, through their close study of the topic, their skills as a researcher, their careful, long-term analysis, and their involvement in a system in which articles and books are published only after the scrutiny of other qualified academics to determine if they are 'right' or not. In other words, the claims are trustworthy because an institutionalised method makes them trustworthy. It is a social convention that academic work is regarded as being more 'sound' (if often more remote) than 'popular' work; it is also a worthwhile social convention because there are good reasons to accept this distinction in soundness.
The usefulness of the television program depends, however, on what exactly we are trying to find. It might be quite relevant to argue that the popular perception of nationalist advertising is very important in the effectiveness of such commercials. So, even if we distrust many of the claims that are advanced in the popular media and trust those from more scholarly work instead, we can still use as evidence the fact that people do actually make and listen to the first sort of claim. In other words, while we may not trust the television program as an indirect commentary on advertising, we could certainly use it as a direct source of popular views on advertising.
Do you see the difference? Sometimes we will want to make claims in our reasoning that convey information in the claims themselves. And sometimes we will want to make claims about the fact that a certain type of claim, or group of claims, has been made by others. Developing the latter type of writing is essential in good critical work and, thus, requires you to develop skills in knowing about sources of knowledge.
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