The Different Types of Sources

  • Primary Sources: "These provide the 'raw data' that you use first to test your working hypothesis and then as evidence to support your claim. In history, for example, primary sources include documents from the period or person you are studying, objects, maps, even clothing; in literature or philosophy, your main primary source is usually the text you are studying, and your data are the words on the page."1
  • Secondary Sources: "Secondary sources are research reports that use primary data to solve research problems, written for scholarly and professional audiences. Researchers read them to keep up with their field and use what they read to frame problems of their own by disputing other researchers’ conclusions or questioning their methods. You can use their data to support your argument, but only if you cannot find those data in a primary source. A secondary source becomes a primary source when you study its argument as part of a debate in a field."2
  • Tertiary Sources: "These are books and articles that synthesize and report on secondary sources for general readers, such as textbooks, articles in encyclopedias and mass-circulation publications like Psychology Today, and what standard search engines turn up first on the Web. In the early stages of research, you can use tertiary sources to get a feel for a topic. But if you use what you find in a tertiary source to support a scholarly argument, most of your readers won’t trust your report—or you."3

Locating Sources

Step 1: Keywords

The first step when researching is to create a few key words to help narrow down the overabundant amount of information some topic will curate.



MKULTRA / CIA / Mind Control • 1960s LAPA (coverups / abuses / lawsuits) • Allard Lowenstein • Rosicrusians • RFK autopsy notes • RFK conspiracy • Sirhan Sirhan 

Step 2: Google / Google Scholar

Google is a fine place to start researching for secondary and tertiary information, especially if the topic of exploration does not require peer-reviewed sources.

• Keep in mind: the internet is full of information, but not all of it is accurate or factual. If you are not comfortable with discerning the academically sound nature of a source, reach out to your professor.  

Resources to Help Discern a Source's Validity:

• Center for Innovation in Legal Education's video Sources and Biases, which is part of a larger series on Critical Thinking

• Thought Monkey's video Confirmation Bias in 5 Minutes

Step 3: More Advanced Researching

This is the point in which students should coordinate in some capacity with a (local or university) library. At this point students should also have a better grasp on what they are researching, so the keyword searches will need to be more specific then utilized through a simple Google search.

Tips on Keyword Searches:

1. Start with a general search of the topic (e.g., author's name, title of the primary source, etc.). This is a good way of judging just how many resources are available on the research subject in total.

2. Begin filtering through your keywords. Pull the titles of books and articles that seem relevant to the research topic. [Hint: This step can take awhile and will vary depending on the length of the paper being written. Make sure to give enough time to really delve into the research.]

3. If resources are still not available, broaden the search. Use more generalized keywords. Look up the parameters around the research inquiry instead of the topic itself. [Hint: This is another point in the research process where the professor can/should be consulted.]

Resources for Researching:

• Click back over to the Research page for a list of resources available through the Ingram Library that will help in finding information and references through peer-reviewed journals and databases.

•'s video Finding Credible Sources for Your Research Paper

Step 4: Reading the Research

Love it or hate it, this is the point where students really start engaging with the research on their topic. 

• Scroll down for tips on engaging with sources and note-taking with examples included.

Engaging with the Sources

While primarily a component of the drafting phase, engagement with sources is a fundamental part of the research process.

• Remember, you are contributing to a larger conversation happening around a subject within a particular field of research. 

• Though it sounds contradictory, look at sources that disagree with the statement you are trying to make. If you only look at people who agree with you, your paper will appear biased and under-researched.


The RFK Tapes Utilization of Sources

  • Archival Audio
    • LAPD Interviews: sets up case against Sirhan while also establishing the history around the RFK case
    • Allard Lowenstein (Interviews and Personal recordings): beginning of the counter argument (as well as conspiracy theory) to Sirhan as the main suspect. He also discovers police misconduct and destruction of key pieces of evidence
    • Interviews with First-Hand Witnesses from the Ambassador Hotel: more background as well as evidence surrounding the case
  •  Zac Stuart-Pontier Interviews
    • Bill Klaber, co-host and author of Shadow Play: exemplifies the conspiracy theory about the assassination plot
    • Sirhan Sirhan's family: background on Sirhan's character and circumstances.
    • Dr. Daniel Brown, who interviewed Sirhan Sirhan: acts as an expert in the field of psychiatry
    • Associates of Robert F. Kennedy from his presidential campaign: establishes Kennedy's character
    • Dan Moldea, author of The Killing of Robert F. Kennedy: An Investigation of Motive, Means, and Opportunity: private investigator that provides an alternative suspect/theory to the murder plot. He also acts as a counter to Klaber, because he ultimately concludes that Sirhan murdered Kennedy
    • Danny Jensen, former LAPD officer
  • Interviews with Experts
    • Audio experts Philip Van Praag and Phillip Harrison: competing interpretations of audio evidence from the Ambassador Hotel the night of the assassination
    • Jesse Walker, author of The United States of Paranoia: academic researcher who is an expert on conspiracy theories and how they develop
  • Book References
    • RFK Must Die by Robert Kaiser: secondary option about the facts surrounding the RFK Assassination
    • The Manchurian Candidate by John Marks: background information about the CIA's experiments with mind control and LSD within the MKULTRA trials

To have a full appreciation of the utilization of the above sources, listen to the podcast in its entirety. 


Important: Take all the notes. All of them. 

• The only way to keep research straight in your head is to record it in some way; writing notes down is the most constructive way of recording them, but taking pictures or scans to consult back to while writing the paper is also helpful.

• With each source, make sure to record the author's name, the title of the work (of both the larger piece [e.g., book, journal, etc.] as well as the small piece [e.g., chapter title, article title, etc.]), the publisher, the copyright date, and the page numbers referenced; you will need this information for the Works Cited or Reference page for the final draft. 

Types of Notes:

1. Direct Quotations

2. Paraphrase

3. Notations for

a. Additional Research

b. Argumentative Rhetoric

c. Personal Asides

Tricks to Keeping Things Organized:

• If you want to get fancy, you can have different documents that contain different topics for each piece of research. Most people however don't have time for that. Develop your own tricks to keep your research separate.

• If the different-document-technique is too cumbersome, try using different color inks or highlighters. 

• If that doesn't work, indicate the type of note with different bullet points.

• If you write down a direct quote, go ahead and indicate that in your notes with quotation marks and the page number it came from at the end. You will be less likely to confuse your sentences from that of someone else if you take the time to indicate who they belong to first.


Excerpt from notes on The RFK Tapes, "Episode 6: The Manchurian Candidate"4

  • hypno-programming
  • only Kennedy died that night at the Ambassador Hotel? Is that right?
  • quotation from Dr. Daniel Brown, an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology at Harvard Medical School., who conducted an interview with Sirhan Sirhan:

"I asked him to tell me at some length about his sister who died of leukemia several years before the assassination. Because those are verifiable memories and we could see what he could remember. [...] So there was quite a contrast between the amount of detail he could remember about his sister's illness and dying and the night of the assassination, which he remembered almost no details for. So that struck me. Later in a number of interviews over the years, I used hypnosis. and I’d have to say Sirhan is one of the most hypnotizable people I’ve ever met."

  • triggering "range mode"
  • The Manchurian Candidate: movie came out in 1962
  • The Search for the Manchurian Candidate by John Marks quotation:

"Morse Allen decided to take his hypnosis studies further, right in his own office. He asked young CIA secretaries to stay after work and ran them through the hypnotic paces. He had secretaries steal secret files and pass them on to total strangers, thus violating the most basic CIA security rules. He got them to steal from each other and to start fires.

On February 19, 1954, Morse Allen simulated the ultimate experiment in hypnosis: the creation of a "Manchurian Candidate," or programmed assassin. Allen's "victim" was a secretary whom he put into a deep trance and told to keep sleeping until he ordered otherwise. He then hypnotized a second secretary and told her that if she could not wake up her friend, "her rage would be so great that she would not hesitate to 'kill.'" Allen left a pistol nearby, which the secretary had no way of knowing was unloaded. Even though she had earlier expressed a fear of firearms of any kind, she picked up the gun and "shot" her sleeping friend. After Allen brought the "killer" out of her trance, she had apparent amnesia for the event, denying she would ever shoot anyone." [need page number --> track down book]

  • Sirhan's "prison" memory where he could have been programmed
  • why the conspiracy?


1. Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams. The Crafting of Research, 3rd Edition (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2008), 69.

2. Ibid., 69

3. Ibid., 69

4. Zac Stuart-Pontier and Bill Klaber, "The Manchurian Candidate," July 17, 2018, in The RFK Tapes, produced by Cadence 13, podcast, MP3 audio, 00:27:33,