Macbeth Persuasive Essay: Finding Secondary Sources

Contributor: Melissa Kowalski. Lesson ID: 12867

"Oh yeah? Who says so?" When you state a position in an essay for all to see, you need to have corroboration to be persuasive. Learn about claims, rebuttals and how to back up your views with sources!



English / Language Arts
learning style
personality style
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


Stacking support strengthens the substance! What does that clever phrase mean?

In the previous lesson in our Macbeth Persuasive Essay series, found under Related Lessons in the right-hand sidebar, you developed your thoughts on the qualities of a leader through freewrites, and narrowed down to the single most important trait you think a leader should have.

You then found supporting evidence for this characteristic in the text of Macbeth. However, this is not all the support that is needed to make an argument. You also need to draw on outside sources — or secondary sources — to support your arguments. You might be thinking, "Why do I need more sources? Aren't the play and my reasons enough?" While that is a good start, outside sources help to prove that you are not the only person who thinks this way. You make a stronger argument when you can point to other people or texts who also support your opinions.

Outside or secondary sources bolster the arguments, or substance, of a paper in two main ways:

  1. Additional sources help create the "bandwagon" mentality where the more people who advocate for a position, the more likely it is that the reader will believe the writer's position because the reader doesn't want to be unpopular or left out of the group.
  2. Additional sources can provide expert commentary on the topic. Experts are important to use because they show that the writer isn't just inventing a position on a topic. Instead, there is strong evidence from people with a specialized knowledge on the subject that support the position, too. Experts can be people working or researching in a field, such as researchers, professors, journalists, etc., or they can be people with firsthand experience or knowledge of an event, such as a researcher conducting studies on whether watching television changes a person's brain, or someone who witnessed the attacks on September 11, 2001.
  • Think about what you have experienced in your life; in what areas could you be considered an expert?

To get started finding outside sources, it is good to first consider to what other topics or fields your essay is related.

  • What other school subjects or courses might discuss qualities of leadership?

If you said "history" or "social studies," you would be correct. Some other related subjects might include psychology, sociology, and political science. When you can make links to other subjects, you can narrow down the areas where you should look for outside sources to support your arguments in your essay.

Now that you know the related fields where you might find secondary or supporting sources, make a list of all the texts, events, and people you can think of that might support your arguments on a separate sheet of paper.

  • For example, can you think of any historical figures who resemble the characters in Macbeth?
  • Are there any historical events that reveal the traits of leaders who are in power at the time of the event's occurrence?
  • Are there any texts that you can think of that discuss how a leader should act?

You can make a single list or separate the items into the three categories of texts, events, and people.

When you have made your list, set it aside for the moment (keep it handy because you'll use it later in the lesson) and move on to the Got It? section, where you will explore the opposing side of your argument.

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