Academic Writing as Scholarly Mashups

December 7, 2014

Every year DJ Earworm makes a mashup of the popular songs from the year … and it makes a new song (and video) in itself.  Here’s the one for 2014:

As I have been commenting on student papers, it has dawned on me that using scholarly sources in your own paper is like creating a DJ Earworm mashup: you reply on the fact that people know the full songs (or at least can go look them up on YouTube, iTunes, Amazon, etc) and you only need to take a small but key portion of the song and “put in in conversation” with the other songs related to you topic to create something bigger than the sum of all the parts taken separately (see  this webpage and this video to see information about the conversations in a Burkean Parlor for the “put in a conversation” reference). In other words, you have a jammin gestalt.
So how do you get sources “in conversation”? It’s tricky, but here’s the advice I gave a student:

Start with a “bigger” main idea of your own that you then get each source to “comment” on (present an idea from the source using a quote). After, or during, the comment of one source, join in with your own words and “interpret” the idea presented in that first quote by explaining how you see it “fitting into” your main idea and possibly also using that explanation to tie in an idea (quote) from one of other sources.  You are trying to get a good mashup here … it’s not just one song (scholarly source) you are playing, but samples from different song (scholarly sources) that you are finding the best way to fit together to create a new sound … a new track that is a mashup of the different samples you take, one that is your creation but a creation that relies on, is built from, the work of others.

This is all I have time for now … it IS the end of the semester and grades are due @ the end of the week.

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2 Comments Add your own

  •    Colleen Reynolds  |  December 8th, 2014 at 9:45 am     

    Thanks for sharing a great post! This topic is showing up all over the place in my life right now. I just had a weird moment on Friday with someone about this very issue. I wish you had been there to articulate some of this for me! I am enjoying your blog.

  •    llmiller  |  December 8th, 2014 at 2:40 pm     

    Thank you for your comments Colleen. I liked the mashup analogy because it feels “current” enough to speak to a younger demographic that is now becoming the majority of our students.

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