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Sourcing from books, not from incompetent copies of books
We're told that Lincoln wrote:
- As Mr. Kennedy sat in the rocker in my office, his head resting on its back he placed his left leg across his right knee. He rocked slightly as he talked. In a slow pensive voice he said to me [snip]. Mrs. Lincoln went on to write "[snip]
I don't think that we need to know Kennedy's posture. But such superfluity is the least important problem here. It's blazingly obvious that Mrs Lincoln wouldn't have written that Mrs Lincoln went on to write something or other.
This is sourced to Lincoln's book Kennedy and Johnson. Well actually no it isn't: it's sourced to this chrestomathy compiled by person(s) unnamed, which shows clear signs of having got garbled. Now, I can make guesses about how it has got garbled, and thus of what could be done with it to make it look convincing and probably not too far from what's actually written in the book. But this isn't good enough.
I'm not in the US and I don't have access to any library that's good for this kind of thing. So I can't volunteer for the following tiresome but necessary work: looking up this quotation (and any other quotation that comes via a dodgy website) in the original book. -- Hoary (talk) 02:20, 14 June 2008 (UTC)
- It does seem rather long, considering. I'd be inclined to summarize it in a single sentence. -- Hoary (talk) 10:54, 18 June 2008 (UTC)
A few thoughts:
Lengthen the lead to two solid paragraphs—right now only the bare highlights are mentioned there; more can be added. Anything else on his war involvement and time in the national guard, or early life in general? More on his rise to the Senate would be nice. Did he personally look for a challenger to the Republican? Was he attacked only for being a "liberal", or for specific policy positions? Clarify the special election—was there just one election for senator (for two months plus the next term) or were they separate elections (perhaps on the same ballot but appearing twice so someone could conceivably vote for one guy for two months and the other guy for the full term)? In the legacy section, you might mention who thinks these things, not just cite the sources. "Sanford's long and productive life touched countless Americans by being a key role in the transformation of Southern politics into the New South" is a bit much ("countless" especially), so reword slightly and defend it. Was it the education? The desegregation?
Sanford at Duke
I note that the section "President of Duke University" is sourced to a single book. This book is published by a university press, and one can presume that it's written knowledgably and conscientiously. However, this doesn't mean that it's neutral or that what it says is not contentious. (There are of course plenty of examples of strong disagreements among history books published by university presses.) That it's published by Duke University Press does raise the suspicion that it is akin to an authorized history, and authorized histories do tend toward rosiness.
It's very likely that I'm making unjustified insinuations here. Still, it would be better if the section didn't arouse suspicions, even unjustified suspicions. Thus I recommend supplementing Covington and Ellis's view of Sanford/Duke as tolerant and successful with the view of at least one other historian/book unrelated to Duke. Surely there are surveys of US university dissent of that period. -- Hoary (talk) 01:02, 17 June 2008 (UTC)
- added info and ref from a newspaper. — Rlevse • Talk • 01:21, 17 June 2008 (UTC)
- Sanford was one of the most important public figures of the postwar South.
That's a major claim. And where's it sourced? The blurb for a book on Sanford.
Please, no. The publishers of biographies -- even the academic publishers of academic biographies -- routinely pump up the significance of the biographees. After all, they want to move more copies. An assertion such as this must be sourced to a disinterested authority, for example a institutional/political history of the postwar South. -- Hoary (talk) 01:15, 17 June 2008 (UTC)
- It's a little better but it's still not good. It could be said that Clinton was saying the kind of thing that people say on such occasions -- and this isn't helped by the fact that the praise for the one Southern Dem is coming from another. The other piece is hardly more impressive. For a statement as stong as Sanford was one of the most important public figures of the postwar South, you need the very best authority. Of course you might consider a tactical retreat: Sanford was a major public figure of the postwar South, but if you really believe the current version is valid I'd stick with it and go looking for backup. -- Hoary (talk) 10:19, 18 June 2008 (UTC)
- I'll take the tactical retreat because I'm having trouble for now finding the type of ref you seek. — Rlevse • Talk • 18:04, 18 June 2008 (UTC)
- Only a tiny percentage of MA theses are ever cited for any purpose (with the one exception of PhD theses written later by the same authors), and even if somebody does want to see one it's typically hard to locate. How is it that these particular MA theses merit searching out and reading? -- Hoary (talk) 00:52, 20 June 2008 (UTC)
I don't see the big deal. I found them on a web search. If they didn't want them available to the public they wouldn't have put them on the open internet. Are you saying MA work isn't credible? I honestly find that hard to believe. — Rlevse • Talk • 02:38, 20 June 2008 (UTC)
- I've written an MA thesis; and while it was a big deal for me at the time, it's not something that I think is worth citing by Wikipedia. Indeed, I'm not sure that it's worth citing by anyone. I'm not being unduly modest here: mine was rather typical of MA theses.
- Of course this doesn't damn either of the listed theses; I'm willing to approach them with an open mind. But time's limited, so I'll look at Alt's (or attempt to do so) and, at least for now, ignore the other.
- Google shows me that Alt's thesis is mentioned, no, recommended in this page. The recommendation is authoritative, and I can infer that the thesis belongs to the noteworthy minority. Good for Alt.
- Now, the recommendation is within a page of the UNC university library. Clearly the thesis will be in that library. But where else may it be found? Copac is easier to use for Britain than is any site I know of for the US, so I looked in Copac. Number of hits: zero. It's fairly safe to infer that not one single university library in Britain has a copy, and in turn to infer that not a single copy exists in any library within Britain. It may be somewhat easier to find among US libraries outside NC, but I very much doubt that it's as easy to find as even an obscure historical journal published in the US at the same time.
- Alt's thesis is mentioned in this WP article and the UNC page; and, at least as far as Google is concerned, those are its only mentions. It's recommended in the latter but it's not described in either. Why is this WP article recommending it? It's a pretty elusive volume. Locating and reading it would entail a great deal of work for the great majority of potential readers of this article (work not only by them, but by their librarians and the librarians of whatever library holds it); triggering such an effort is something that editors of this article should take very seriously.
- Perhaps other editors here have read the thesis and know a lot more about it than I can infer. Fine. Then please describe it, so that responsible readers of the article can make an informed decision about whether to attempt to get hold of it. -- Hoary (talk) 04:36, 20 June 2008 (UTC)
- They aren't used as direct refs, but as furter reading. --—— Gadget850 (Ed) talk - 10:57, 20 June 2008 (UTC)
- My objection has nothing to do with the theses' unobtainability as etexts. It's about their near-unobtainability via the library system. (And the likelihood that they're not terribly good. If they were, they'd probably have been published in journals during the authors' subsequent doctoral courses.) What do you know about these theses (other than that one writer in the UNC library recommends them), and what is your point in recommending them as further reading? -- Hoary (talk) 12:40, 20 June 2008 (UTC)
- I'm not sure I know wikipolicy or precedent, but I can tell you what I think would be the responsible course of action. I would only list this an MA thesis if other reliable sources listed it as an important source AND if there are very few other reliable sources on the topic being discussed. MA theses are not particularly reliable pieces of work, unfortunately. I've written one myself. They are student works and lots of mistakes creep in because the people writing them simply don't know very much (they are in professionals-in-training). Also, there is not all that much oversight over such works. It is also extremely hard for most Wikipedia readers to obtain these works - we should be sure that we are directing them to something worthwhile. Hoary is correct when he states that any worthwhile material would have been published in a journal article later in the person's career. Unfortunately, most MA theses do not contain all that much interesting material and only a little bit of them is worth publishing! It is a hard life we academics live. Awadewit (talk) 22:57, 20 June 2008 (UTC)
- Awadewit says what I might have said if I'd been in a better mood; my sourness (which I fear is evident in the tone of my writing) came from exhaustion/irritation from (a) creating an entire (Wikipedia-irrelevant) website in two days on one computer (and I haven't yet quite finished) plus (b) trying to work out what the hell is wrong with my wife's computer (still not quite fixed).
- But if I can be permitted to keep on moaning for a little: "Further reading" should only exceptionally be presented by editors who don't know it at first hand. If you don't know it yourself, you should ask yourself hard questions about why you don't know it or why you're implicitly recommending it. -- Hoary (talk) 23:34, 20 June 2008 (UTC)
Education and Lead
According to The New York Times obit here (and multiple-cited inline), Sanford got his bachelor's degree in 1939 and the law degree followed his WWII military service, so I've clarified that in the article. Also beefed up the Lead to make it more of a comprehensive summary for FAC. JGHowes talk - 18:20, 20 June 2008 (UTC)
- Nice work. But as the stuff you footnoted in the lead was footnoted in the body, I am not so sure the footnotes are needed in the lead. The rule of thumb is a well-written lead, as a summary of the body, will need few if any footnotes as those will be in the body with the details. But we'll leave it be for now. I think we're about ready for FAC, just the lingering issue of the MA Theses. — Rlevse • Talk • 21:17, 20 June 2008 (UTC)