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net.TUTOR: Using Information in Context

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3. Using Information: BEAM: Background Sources

These are sources that should be noncontroversial--the writer accepts information from these sources as being authoritative (and expects readers to as well).

In other words, the sources (and the information gleaned from them) are generally trusted or undisputed. It can serve as the incontestable foundation for an author's claims.

Background information is common knowledge (e.g. the sky is blue) and not necessary to be cited.

It's recommended that you cite if you're unsure, but one rule of thumb suggests finding the same undocumented information in at least 5 other reliable sources. Always consult your professor though.

Let's look at a statement in the first paragraph of the pop culture essay:

Thus, the corporate giants of the American Culture Industry (themselves now mostly multinational conglomerates) clearly must pay attention to the demands of audiences around the world in formulating, producing, and promoting the specific films, television, music, and other artifacts that are the stuff of popular culture.

How do you know that the "corporate giants are...mostly multinational conglomerates" as stated in the first sentence? Or what the "stuff of popular culture" is? This is an example of common knowledge.

Looking a little deeper...

Without context, this could also be the conclusion of a paper about what corporations should do (demonstrating the on-going nature of knowledge itself). But the paper is not about making recommendations to the American Cultural Industry. This is an assertion that the author uses to help set up his argument and is meant to be taken at face-value.


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