Secondary Sources in Academic Papers. The Perspective of Business Ethics

Responsibility and Science in a Globalized World

Term Paper, 2016
14 Pages, Grade: 1,7


Table of content
Abstract ... 1
Introduction ... 1
Quotations out of secondary sources in academic writing ... 2
Perspectives on ethics ... 3
General definition and implications ... 3
Academic ethics and virtues ... 4
Business ethics ... 5
Conclusion ... 8
References ... 11

The aim of this Essay is to analyze to what extend quotations in academic articles
and/or monographs that solely exist out of secondary and not primary sources are prob-
lematic from the perspective of academic ethics in general and business ethics in partic-
ular. Despite being an accepted tool in academic writing and research, the excessive use
of secondary sources resembles the exploitation of foreign efforts in the procurement
and analysis of primary sources. The research method of this essay is based on an ex-
tensive literature research to work out central aspects of academic ethics being relevant
for the creation of academic articles and monographs as products of scientific communi-
ties. Furthermore, different philosophical approaches are consulted to gain a compre-
hensive understanding of the business ethics approach and its fundamental pillars. The
analysis comes to the conclusion, that citations solely from secondary sources and in the
absence of a comprehensive confrontation with primary literature harm central values
introduced by the European University Institute as the cornerstones of integrity and
good scientific practice. From a business ethics point of view, the conduct violates rules
of proportion and endangers the beneficiance of (scientific) communities as it represents
an act of selfishness to the own self-interest.
1 Introduction
Citations from secondary sources have become a common practice in academic writing
and research. The have become a tool in order to reach a comprehensive understanding
of the relevant literature body and partially guarantee a more objective view on certain
Nevertheless, the issues that can accompany citations from secondary sources
have recently become a public topic in the context of the withdrawal of Annette
Schavan's doctorate due to plagiarism accusations for false citation of secondary
But even cited correctly and in accordance with the applied standards for aca-
demic writing, academic articles and/or monographs solely out of secondary are to be
considered problematic, as the author solely reproduces ideas, opinions and trains of
thoughts of other authors. It implies academically cutting corners as foreign interpreta-
Vgl. Brandt (1998), p.51f.
Vgl. Prantl (2013)

tions are used without doubting its fidelity.
As the author indirectly exploits foreign
knowledge and research efforts, the proceeding can raise the matter of the compatibility
with ethical principles that exist in (academic) societies.
Hence, in the following Essay I try to cope with the issue, to what extend quotations in
academic articles and/or monographs that solely exist out of secondary and not primary
sources are problematic from the perspective of academic ethics in general and business
ethics in particular.
2 Quotations out of secondary sources in academic writing
In the context of academic writing, scientific literature is divided into three sub-
categories. The scientific original script is described as a primary source and comprises
books, magazines, journals or theses. Primary sources resemble the actual subject mat-
ter of academic and scientific work. The term "secondary source" refers to directories
that systematically substantiate original scripts. Secondary sources serve as an instru-
ment to make primary sources available in a time efficient manner, representing a tool
of scientific work. Lastly, tertiary sources display scientific areas in combined form
such as dictionaries or course books.
In general, secondary sources are to be understood as a treatise on content displayed by
primary sources. For instance, Goethe's Faust is to be depicted as a primary source,
whereas scientific papers on the literary tragedy are to be classified as a secondary
When it comes to the verification of sources, the epistemological value has
become a crucial standard, but is subject to various requirements. A number of broad
valuation standards can be established that appear to be useful for a greater or lesser
aggregation of literary sources. The proximity of the source towards the investigated
process or condition resembles one of the most important valuation standards. Ceteris
paribus, the statement of an eyewitness is preferred to a statement from second-hand.
It is important to stress that single sources can feature the character of a primary or sec-
ondary source at the same time, depending on the question it is supposed to reply to.
The priest Helmond von Bosau's Chronicon Slavorum is a primary source when refer-
ring to his experiences during the north-east German colonization in the middle of the
Vgl. Leopold-Wildburger/Schütze (2002), p.46
Vgl. Brink (2013), p.53
Vgl. Gantert/Hacker (2008), p.71f.
Vgl. Brandt (1998), p.51

century. At the same time, it features the characteristics of a secondary source with
regard to the description of far distanced temporal and spatial events in the world-, em-
pire and crusades history.
However, despite lacking distance to the original event or
process, the value of secondary sources can exceed the one of a primary source due to a
higher degree of objectivity or a clearer overview of existing interconnections.
3 Perspectives on ethics
3.1 General definition and implications
When discussing the aspect of quotations in academic articles and monographs out of
secondary sources, one must refer to an ethical framework that implies relevant ap-
proaches for an assessment of the problematic nature of the described methodology.
In general terms, ethics and morality concern the beliefs about right and wrong perspec-
tives in human conduct, exploring different ideas on how to define and determine the
nature of right and wrong actions and decisions. Ethics involves the usage of reason in
order to support or justify which particular decisions or actions chosen by the individual
or collectives are to be depicted as good or right as opposed to bad or wrong.
Ethics is often regarded as being synonymous with moral but in philosophy these two
terms are strictly separated. The term moral is taken to refer to generally accepted
standards of right and wrong in societies whereas a code of ethics is a central feature of
a profession and signals an organizations ability to organize itself as a profession and
hence represent more abstract principles.
Therefore, with regard to the academic pro-
fession, ethics can provide guidelines for good academic and scientific practice as a
foundation to assess the issue of the sole usage of secondary sources in academic arti-
cles and/or monographs, as it implies various academic virtues that are to be discussed
in the further course of the work.
Vgl. Brandt (1998), p.52
Vgl. Brandt (1998), p.51f.
Gallant (2011), p.135
Vgl. Alavudeen et al. (2008), p.46
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Secondary Sources in Academic Papers. The Perspective of Business Ethics
Responsibility and Science in a Globalized World
Leuphana Universität Lüneburg
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Hannes Kahle (Author), 2016, Secondary Sources in Academic Papers. The Perspective of Business Ethics, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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