Using Tell, Show, Share in Your Writing

Tell, Show, Share is a way of framing your secondary sources in the text of your essay. The term TSS is a shorthand to describe the steps that all writers and scholars use in introducing outside ideas to their writing. TSS is the building block of all scholarly work.

Below is a passage from the essay “Repudiating Sleeping Beauty” by U.C. Knoepflmacher, an essay that challenges the traditional readings of “Sleeping Beauty.”

(1)In distinguishing Perrault’s version of “Sleeping Beauty” from that of the Grimms, Lutz Rohrich stresses the Frenchman’s ironic realism:

(2)The German Sleeping Beauty is as old the day she wakes up as the day she fell asleep; it does not occur to the German narrator to calculate the effect of the magical hundred-year sleep. Perrault’s Sleeping Beauty has hard skin because she is 120 years old; “one would be hard pressed to find an animal in the zoo with skin as hard as hers.” The musical instruments which wake her play outdated music, and Sleeping Beauty is wearing an old-fashioned dress: “But the prince was careful not to tell her that she was dressed like his grandmother and was wearing a high-necked dress.” On the wedding night the princess doesn’t sleep much because she is already thoroughly rested. (164-65)

(3)Rohrich might have added that, unlike the Grimms, who need a waking king and queen to approve their young child’s impending marriage, Perrault removes his Sleeping Beauty’s parents and condemns them to grow older and die. Yet more than Perrault’s time-conscious realism is involved in all these examples. Whereas the German Briar-Rose remains a virginal teenager who has yet to consummate her marriage by the end of the story, Perrault has his fun with the nuptials he places at the midpoint of his narrative. The idea that a hundred-year waiting period may have appreciably increased the libido of a bride old enough to be her inexperienced bridegroom’s grandmother affords an opportunity for innuendo that Perrault simply cannot pass up.

There are three elements involved in using a secondary source in your academic work. Whether it’s a block quote like the one used above, a short quote, a paraphrase or a summary, these elements are necessary to create the proper context and demonstrate your understanding of the source.

(1)Tell is the first element. In this section, the writer frames the quote with the source that’s about the be revealed. In the above passage, Knoepflmacher explains that the passage will discuss differences between the Perrault and Grimms versions of “Sleeping Beauty.” He also tells his readers who the source of the information is.

(2)Show is the second element, it’s the source itself. Since the quote is more than four lines long, he has indented it and single-spaced it. The quote does not require quotation marks since the indentation already indicates that this is a secondary source. The quote itself contains references to other texts and these references do have quotation marks as they are short.

(3)Share is the third element, the most important element when using secondary sources. Sometimes writers use secondary sources to substitute their own thinking. They make the assumption that dropping the quote in the text of their paper is enough to prove that they’ve done the work. Unfortunately this is not the case. Secondary sources are important to writers because they bolster, inform and illustrate the ideas that the writer already has about his or her subject.

The share paragraph traces the connections that the writer sees between his idea that there are different ways of reading “Sleeping Beauty.” It uses the secondary source as an illustration that supports his thesis. He points back to the quote and expands his reading of it. This section demonstrates the writer’s ability to be a scholar, someone who gains mastery of his subject through study.


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