The following blog is a comparison of a primary source versus a secondary source that has used the primary source as a source of information. The topic being discussed in the two articles is the whole-mantle plume occurring beneath the Yellowstone Caldera. The primary source is a paper on a recent study by a Mathias Obrebski and Richard M. Allen. The piece was published in Geophysical Research Letters on July the 22nd 2010 and was titled Slab-plume interaction beneath the Pacific Northwest. For simplicities sake, this paper will be referred to as the primary piece from here on in. The secondary source is an article that was published in the Environmental News Network by Andy Soos. The article was published on September 10th 2010 and was titled Yellowstone Magna. This will be referred to as the secondary piece for the remainder of this blog.
The primary and secondary pieces had very different objectives. The primary piece was designed to share the in-depth information that Obrebski had collected about the interactions of the whole-mantle plume beneath the Yellowstone Snake River Plain and the surrounding slabs. The target audience of this piece would be individuals who have previous knowledge of this specific case as well as plate tectonics in general and so the author was free to use terms more specific to that area of study and still feel confident that the reader would comprehend all of the information being conveyed in the research.
The secondary piece on the other hand has a different objective in that the piece is intended for a broader audience. One that still includes the audience of the primary piece, but also readers who are merely interested in knowing current news about the environment and geography, but have never studied the topic specifically, and so more common terminology is used to convey the message.
Illustration source: http://www.thecityedition.com/Pages/Archive/2010/Yellowstone.html
The primary piece covers a broader understanding of the topic, including information about the surrounding tectonic plates and specific information about how the plume affects each of the surrounding tectonic plates to create a unique situation. The paper is set up in a very structured manner with headings and subheadings to separate the different ideas and guide the reader smoothly through the large amount of information they wish to convey.
The secondary piece is more specific in the information that it addresses. It mostly concerned with the Yellowstone National Park area rather than the entire area affected by the plume, however there is brief mention of the Juan de Fuca slab located to the west of the plume. The main focus of the piece is to discuss the controversy about the topic and address the several hypotheses about the source of the seismic activity of the area. The piece is short and therefore it does not need headings and subheadings to separate for the reader to be able to navigate through the piece with ease.
The claims made in the primary piece are all confirmed by research done in this study as well as from previous studies on the same area. All information is properly cited and the reader is given sufficient information to further investigate anything they might question. The language used in the primary piece is also very affirmative and leaves the reader feeling confident in the information that they are being given. The claims in the primary piece are made stronger by giving the reader the proper citations and power to view where the secondary information is coming from.
The secondary piece, however, begins with two very soft sentences. The terms “somewhat” and “probably” do not leave the reader feeling confident in the information that they are about to take in. The piece also makes accusations about Yellowstone being a hotspot, which may very well be, but the author gives no indication of where they received this information. The secondary piece gives very little in terms of citations and credit, only mentioning the name of one researcher and the date and journal that the paper was published in the text without proper citation. However the reader is not given which information comes from that specific paper and what information is taken from other sources.
After reading both of these pieces I have concluded that considering that since each has a different purpose and audience, they both contain enough information to inform the reader about their desired message. Although the secondary piece does not make as strong or broad of claims about the topic, it still uses the information taken from the primary piece in the manner for which it was intended. The borrowed information is not skewed in any way and it informs the scientific and environmentally conscious communities about the basics of the primary source. Both pieces were successful in accomplishing their individual goals.
Obrebski, M., Allen, R. M., Xue, M., & Hung, S.-H. (2010, July 22). Slab-plume interaction beneath the Pacific Northwest. Retrieved September 20, 2010, from Geographical Research Letters: http://www.agu.org/journals/gl/gl1014/2010GL043489/
Soos, A. (2010, September 10). Yellowstone Magna. Retrieved September 20, 2010, from Environmenntal News Netwrok: http://www.enn.com/ecosystems/article/41761