HOW TO RANK SOURCE MATERIAL IN RESEARCH`
Three types of evidence used in research need to be distinguished:
1. Primary Material: Primary Source Material consists of original documents such as diaries, speeches, manuscripts, letters, interviews, records, eyewitness accounts, autobiographies and official documents.
N MY JINNAH BOOK I HAVE RELIED HEAVILY ON TWO MAJOR PRIMARY SOURCE MATERIALS, MOHAMMAD ALI JINNAH'S OWN SPEECHES, STATEMENTS AND MESSAGES AND THE TRANSFER OF POWER DOCUMENTS IN 12 VOLUMES PUBLISHED BY THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT.
When one uses primary source material then one is closest to finding the most reliable source material.
In my book on the Punjab Partition, I used heavily the fortnightly secret reports of the British Governors of Punjab but such material was available only till 14 August 1947. Then for the period 15 August to 31 December 1947 I collected eye-witness accounts of what happened in the Punjab.
It took me 12 years to collect the material I needed to publish my findings on the partition of the Punjab.
2. Secondary Material: These are books and articles written by other authors which are used when primary source material is not available. In all research secondary sources are always needed but they have a lower degree of reliablity than primary source material.
3. Anecdotal Material: these are opinions, rumours and stories which go around without anyone checking if they are genuine or fake. IN PAKISTAN INSTEAD OF PRIMARY AND SECONDARY SOURCE MATERIAL BEING READ STUDIOUSLY AND USED CAUTIOUSLY PEOPLE RELY ON ANECDOTAL EVIDENCE: For example, that Jinnah sent a message to Nehru that he regretted the partition and wanted to undo it so that India and Pakistan again become one.
THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO BASIS FOR THIS ALTHOUGH JINNAH DID SEND A MESSAGE TO NEHRU THAT HE HOPED THE INDIAN GOVERNMENT WILL NOT TAKE OVER HIS BOMBAY HOUSE.
In my Jinnah book I make that very clear with the help of primary source material but gossip and rumours are very attractive in all societies but more so in our societies where the academic works are so badly researched.
MOST IMPORTANT FOR ALL SCHOLARS IS TO EVALUATE THE RELIABILITY OF SOURCE MATERIAL BEFORE ACCEPTING IT AND RELYING ON IT.