What is “The Literature”?

What is The Literature ?
Brought to you by CSUSB’s John M. Pfau Library You may have heard the phrase “the literature.”
In this video, we’ll explain what exactly the literature is, and we’ll explore the
ways in which the literature is different from the information we encounter in our everyday
lives. Finally, we’ll take a look at the role that attribution plays in helping us
to navigate and make sense of the literature. So what is the literature? In short, it is
the body of scholarly work in any given field. We sometimes think of the literature as the
conversations that scholars have with one another over time. These conversations are
more formal than just having a chat over coffee, however, and are had through the publication
of sources like journal articles and books. The literature is different from the information
we encounter in our everyday lives in many ways. First, the scholarly sources within
the literature are considered to have a greater level of authority than popular sources because
they are created by experts like your professors. While some disagree that scholarly sources
are necessarily “better” than other types of information, they remain highly valued
in academia. You’ll notice that unlike popular sources,
the sources you find in the literature are not written for just anybody, but are rather
meant for others in the same field or discipline. This includes college students as well as
other experts who research and write about similar topics. Scholarly sources typically
use the language – sometimes referred to as the jargon – of a specific discipline.
Thus, these sources are not always accessible to everyone. Finally, the sources you encounter in the
literature have a specific purpose. Unlike popular sources, which can give us facts,
entertain us, or try to persuade us, the literature typically includes more analysis, which is
a big part of what scholars do. Often, you will find that within the literature, there
are more questions posed than questions answered. Now, what is the role of attribution in helping
us navigate and make sense of the literature? Experts, when they properly reference the
work of others, help to create a historical record of the scholarly conversations that
occur in the literature. Because scholars want to be able to trace ideas back to their
origins and see how these ideas have been contested, challenged, or embraced over time,
this historical record allows us to do just that. When scholars reference other sources, they
give credit where credit is due. Because ideas have value, attribution is the formal tool
that scholars use to recognize the work of others. So what exactly does attribution look like?
Well, have you ever seen in-text citations, or a list of works cited or references at
the end of a journal article or book? This, my friends, is what attribution looks like
in the literature.

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