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investigators when they wrote about their research, thereby creating a 'secondary' or indirect source (see below). However, direct sources do contain values and elements of interpretation.11 The importance of the distinction between direct and indirect sources, then, is not that one is 'fact' and the other interpretation but, rather, one of context. For example, the comments made by an advertising agency director about nationalistic television commercials must be understood in relation to the person who made these comments, why, when, how, and in what situation the comments were made, and so on. If we do an experiment by measuring the biological reactions of people watching nationalist advertising under controlled conditions, then we, in effect, become the authors of that data (via the way that we establish the experiment). We would need to ask ourselves the same sorts of questions to understand the meaning of the data we gather. By doing so, we will recognise that the contexts in which this direct 'evidence' of nationalist advertising is gathered is different to that in which we use it as part of our argument.

In every case, then, direct sources can only be used effectively when we think about the context, as well as the content, of the information we draw from them. Sometimes, understanding this context involves asking questions about where and when the information was produced; by whom; for what purpose; on the basis of what knowledge; in relation to which issues. Equally, the context can be understood by thinking about our own engagement with the source. For example, scientists must check, when performing experiments, that they have established the experimental procedure properly, that there are no errors in their procedures, that they are reliable observers of the events, and so on. In each discipline, in each field of endeavour, there are basic rules that we must follow, and assumptions that we must make, when seeking to gather information from direct sources; there are also basic understandings about how to consider the context of the information. They are too numerous and complex to discuss here in detail, but two examples can be drawn from history and chemistry. In history, a standard approach is to think about the way in which a person's social position (class, race, gender, and so on) can influence and be seen in what they have said or written. In chemistry, experimental design is always used to control and maintain quality of experimental work: the information gained through an experiment is always assessed in the context of the way the experiment was performed. In general terms, we must learn the rules that are part of our context and consciously apply them so that we can use direct sources effectively.

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