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Which text is valuable for gaining context about a historical event but is unreliable as "evidence"?

A. anthology
B. encyclopedia
C. historical novel
D. monograph
E. textbook

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Elizabeth S. | Fun, Knowledgeable Tutor for Wide Range of Courses!Fun, Knowledgeable Tutor for Wide Range ...
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Hi, Lorissa! 
Great question! Although the answer to your question really depends on what you're writing your paper for, the anthology and encyclopedia are very helpful in providing background information but are generally not accepted as credible sources.
Textbooks may also be considered unacceptable evidence, depending on your topic, teacher, and the level of your course. Textbooks are considered tertiary sources, or sources that synthesize and summarize information instead of using primary evidence to support a certain point of view (secondary source) or communicating the point of view of someone who was actually present during a specific time period (primary source). The textbook was an acceptable source during my history coursework in high school and in the introductory classes of my undergraduate work in history. Textbooks or any other tertiary source were no longer considered acceptable in either my upper-level history courses or my graduate courses in history. The same pattern goes for the classes I taught and tutored for while I was working on my graduate degree. 
Historical novels can provide some context but it would probably be best to exclude these from your research process. These books are certainly fun to read but the fictionalization tends to get in the way of the historical truths. 
Regardless of what you are writing or what level of history you are writing for, well-researched monographs are always an acceptable source!
Hope this helps! 
Vivian L. | Microsoft Word/Excel/Outlook, essay composition, math; I LOVE TO TEACHMicrosoft Word/Excel/Outlook, essay comp...
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Hi Lorissa;
The definition of the word evidence is not specified in your question.
If you mean legal evidence, almost all of the above is hearsay and double-hearsay.  Hearsay is a circumstance in which the individual providing testimony had no direct experience with the content of the testimony.  For example, "My neighbor told me that he committed a crime.  I came home and told my family this."  In a courtroom, I cannot testify that he committed the crime.  However, in law, there are hearsay exception rules.  One of these is confessions.  So I may be able to testify that my neighbor confessed to me, if the judge allows it.  However, my family cannot under any circumstances, testify because that is double-hearsay.
In the context of your question, a learned treatise can be considered an exception to the hearsay rule and possibly admitted into evidence at courtroom trial.  A monograph is a possibility, depending on the subject matter.
Encyclopedias and textbooks would likely be considered double-hearsay.  These are typically not authored by one person.  Even if such is, and even if that person is willing to testify, more than likely, this individual executed research by reading monographs which are possibly hearsay.
Historical novels are typically fiction.  One historical novel is Gone with the Wind.  The author, Margaret Mitchell, based her story on the stories told to her by her grandmother.  Mitchell mentions this relationship once.  It is when Rhett and Scarlet are exiting Atlanta after the fire.  They are watching the retreat of the Confederate soldiers and he says to her, "You can tell your grandchildren how you watched the Old South disappear one night."
Another hearsay exception rule is family records.  Henceforth, Margaret Mitchell could possibly testify to what her grandmother told her and what she recorded.  But the historical novel is not admissible as evidence.
Anthropology is quite likely considered evidence, depending on what is meant by anthropology.  An anthropologist goes out into the field, such as in Greenland, and studies a people, such as the Eskimos.  If the anthropologist is available to testify, that is evidence.  If not, then such learned treatise authored by the anthropologist should be available.  I majored in anthropology.  My experience is that there are more direct testimonials than textbooks or information provided by encyclopedias.  In the college introductory courses I took, there were very few textbooks available.  We immediately began with professional articles organized in compendiums.  I minored in physics.  In that department, we worked almost exclusively with textbooks.
So the answer to your question is historical novels as well as non-learned treatises such as some monographs.


Hi Lorissa;
I have been re-reading your question.  You asked about anthologies not anthropology.  However, in my discussion of the latter, I used the word compendium.  This is synonymous with anthology.  As per my explanation, such would likely be considered evidence.
Emily C. | University English Professor to Tutor Writing and LiteratureUniversity English Professor to Tutor Wr...
When my college students do research, they are required to find sources that are as unbiased and accurate as possible.  With that standard, the one source you have listed that would be problematic is the "historical novel."  Some of the authors in this genre, while certainly basing their stories on historical events, will take liberties with some details as well.  At the very least, a historical novel should be questions and verified by other sources.  
William S. | Experienced scientist, mathematician and instructor - WilliamExperienced scientist, mathematician and...
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Dear Lorissa,
I suspect the answer is C, historical novel.  "Gone with the Wind," for example, draws the reader into feeling what it was probably like living in Georgia during the 1860s, but I would not use it as a source of authoritative information about the American Civil War.  And as wonderful as "A Tale of Two Cities" is in creating the atmosphere of London and Paris during the 1780s and 1790s, it certainly cannot be viewed as "history."  Nor do I think Dickens intended us to view it as such.