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Complete Guide On How To Find Good Sources For a Research Paper

Writing a research paper requires patience and a lot of in-depth analysis of a topic chosen and the sources used. This assignment is very popular in all college and school classes thus it helps students and writers showcase their basic skills such as critical thinking, cohesive writing, and reading comprehension.

Although this project is highly common, not everyone knows how to make a proper research paper. Therefore the article below can be of great help, thus it includes detailed information about writing a research paper and everything a student or writer needs to know about finding credible sources. Furthermore, lists of trustworthy sources for research in several fields such as periodical, academic, indexes, and government entities.

Lastly, some general tips to prove the credibility of a source and how to begin a source-finding process for an award-winning research paper. The following information can be used as a great guide for those in need of a beacon for creating a quality written composition worthy of academic achievement.

Types of Credible Sources for Research

When conducting research, finding credible sources is essential, but what makes a source credible?. To begin, credible sources for research are typically found in government pages, scientific journals, and educational websites. This sets the tone for explaining the three major types of good sources to use for research: websites, journal articles, and news.

  • Credible Websites

Research paper resources must be carefully reviewed and fact-checked to make sure the information can be used on the paper, especially if the data was found on a website. Online pages nowadays can be edited by almost anyone, as well as published anonymously without any form of credibility, therefore the best sources to use for research must come from government or educational websites. The most trustworthy are the WHO, NHS, US Census Bureau, and UK Statistics.

  • Credible Journal Articles

When it comes to the second type of source for research papers, journal articles are great for obtaining detailed data and deep analysis on a chosen topic. Selecting a credible journal article is perhaps easier than other types of sources due to the large quantity of information displayed on the first page (such as the author’s name and education, year published, if it was peer-reviewed, etc). Some common and great academic sources are Google Scholar, Public Library of Science, Oxford Academic, and BioMed Central.

Pro tip: if you’re doubting the credibility of a source, try using the CRAAP test, which states for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose. Analyze the information taking these factors into account to determine whether the source can be used or disposed of.

  • Credible News

Lastly, the news is the last credible source for research papers on the list, which require much precaution and time to properly analyze and determine if they can be taken into account or not. To find good sources for research that include current-event situations, make sure to acquire information from trustworthy newspapers, such as The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times.

If you’re struggling with adding fact-checked information to your paper and you’re constantly searching “how to find sources for a research paper”, a good thing to implement is the CRAAP test mentioned above.

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How To Start A Search For Sources

Students wondering how to find good sources for a research paper can use the following paragraph as a great guide. Good research sources are not technically hard to find, but they do require time, and in the beginning stages of research, the bigger picture tends to be difficult to see, therefore the first step to find good sources for a research project is to start anywhere and narrow your search once you’ve found a connector string.

Here’s a useful list of steps students can use to start searching for a credible list of sources.

  1. Start somewhere. Simply searching the topic chosen in general will provide a good starting point and help students move forward with the investigation.
  2. Use only fact-checked sites. Pages like Wikipedia should be massively avoided thus they can be edited by anyone and no facts can be proven to be true. Go for scholarly databases, well-known newspapers, and government pages to acquire information. 
  3. Go local. Although most information can be accessed online, libraries are still relevant and provide great sources of data and facts, so this source is highly recommended to be used.

The Credibility of a Source

With so many websites and articles available on the internet, the question of how to find credible sources becomes a primary concern among students and writers. To help you determine the credibility of a source, have in mind the following tips.

  • Look for moderate to long articles. Quality over quantity is always preferred, but when it comes to research paper sources, it is recommended to choose some that provide a sense of depth and good research optimal for publication.
  • Be mindful of persuasion. When looking for a credible research paper source, students and writers should be mindful of the author’s persuasion on a specific topic or idea, to later follow or go against it.
  • Check the author’s background. Reliable sources are written by professional standards organizations, and typically when a single author publishes an article or study it is backed up or founded by an organization. Make sure to check their background to make sure the information is optimal for use.
  • Use updated information. Unless you’re researching an event that happened in a specific window of time, using updated information is always recommended.

Free Resources For Learning

Open Educational Resources are free, reliable research paper sources that are available for the population without charge for teaching and educational purposes.

To find good sources of this kind, make sure they have a Creative Commons license, stating that the information displayed can be shared and used on other articles, check the author’s credentials and backgrounds to make sure they provide relevant information to be considered as valid sources and look for non-biased content to keep information neutral to build your opinion or point of view on it later on the paper.

Sites For Scholarly Research

Scholarly research requires some patience and analysis to check the source’s credibility. Government pages are recommended but students and writers should be careful of political ideas that are more fond of one or another party, as well as educational and university sites, in which the information can be usually used for research but should be analyzed too.

Finally, company websites are another great source to use for scholarly research but, as before, writers and students should be aware of any product promotion that gets in the way of credible information.

List of Credible Research Sources to Consider

If you’re searching where to find credible sources for research papers, the following point will come in handy. Below, students and writers can find a list of sources for research paper that contains both primary and secondary sources to create an outstanding and academic-worthy piece.

  • Government Entities

These types of sources are highly regulated by professionals so they are safe to use as primary sources. Depending on the country researched on about the government site will vary. However, some general examples that provide outstanding databases are the Australian Government Department of Health and the CIA World Factbook.

  • Periodicals

Newspaper articles, magazines, and journals are three forms of periodical sources. Some might be suitable for scholarly research (journal articles, conference and working papers, and theses) and others fit non-academic research (magazines, newsletters, articles without bibliographic information, etc). Some good periodical sources are The Journal of Psychology, The Wall Street Journal, and the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

  • Academic Libraries and Databases

Databases and academic libraries can be found in both paid and free accessibility, and most paid information can be obtained with a university or school password. These sources are completely reliable and always provide some sort of bibliography to identify the author’s background and credentials. The most popular and trustworthy academic libraries and databases to obtain information in books, studies and other documents are Google Scholar, PubMed Central, and ScienceDirect. These search engines allow students to access data content easily and fast.

  • Professional Standards Organizations

Professional Standards Organizations serve as a great consultation guide for terminology and specifications in a certain country. Currently, all countries have at least one of these listed as official to help people access certified information. The most common ones used for research paper sources are the American National Standards Institute, the British Standards Institution, and the Standards Council of Canada.

  • Indexes & Abstracts

Indexes and abstracts are great sources of information that readers can quickly determine if these will suit their research or not. Abstracts provide a small summary of the entire text accessed with the key points explained, therefore it is easy to conclude if that info can be used or not in the written composition being created. Furthermore, indexes help with breaking down texts to brief headings that writers and students use as starting points and acquiring very specific data.

  • Newspaper Indexes

For research studies that need past data, newspaper indexes are the best option. These are indexes, composed of name, date, subject, illustrations, and other important details found in a newspaper or group of newspapers. It helps organize similar information and data so readers, writers, and students can access it quickly and obtain specific facts they are looking for.

  • Reference Books

Reference books are used to provide further knowledge on a topic chosen. They can be found in the bibliography of other books, as well as websites and other credible sites that provided citations for the information displayed.

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Sources To Avoid When Conducting Research

Apart from finding good sources to use in a research paper, it is important to know which ones to avoid. When it comes to finding fact-checked information a few important points come into play, such as the author’s background and credentials, date of publication, and if the article was peer-reviewed. Not all websites, journals, magazines, and other types of sources can provide these kinds of details that help students determine whether that information can be used on a research paper or not.

Writing a quality piece requires time, patience, and good sources, therefore below there’s a useful paragraph that contains websites that are commonly known as untrustworthy, meaning that they should be avoided at all costs when writing a research paper.

  • Social Media & Related Sites

Although there are some professionals and organizations that use social media channels to spread fact-checked knowledge about certain topics, not all are, and this can tremendously affect the credibility of your work. Social media and related sites use the worldwide phenomenon known as “fake news”, which shares incorrect information about current and past events.

  • Wikipedia

Wikipedia has been cataloged as untrustworthy for research papers a long time ago, the reason being its lack of credentials and the fact that anyone can edit the facts and information displayed. It might serve as a great starting point for your research but no official data should be taken from this website.

  • General Blogs

Nowadays, anyone with a computer or mobile phone can create a blog and publish information that can’t be fact-checked, therefore this “source” should not be considered when researching an academic paper.

  • Magazines

Unless they are scientific magazines, which are great credible sources for research, general magazines should also be avoided when writing a research paper. The reason why this is recommended is due to magazines having an excess of commercial uses that serve to promote products or services, not educate readers.

  • Outdated Sources

Especially books, outdated sources can become obsolete when conducting research, which is the same as being unreliable thus it can’t be used for academic purposes. Websites, on the other hand, tend to be updated frequently. Therefore it is essential to check the publication date of the books used as well as the websites and journals accessed.

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Tips to Finding Research Paper Sources

After reading all the information exposed in this article, how to find good sources?

It is not hard to find credible research paper sources and discover new facts and data, it does require some patience and analysis but nothing that can’t be done if properly approached. To list sources, in the following paragraph you can find useful information and tips to find trustworthy sites, books, and journals to write an award-winning research paper.

  • Begin with Wikipedia. To start your research paper somewhere, using Wikipedia can be of great help, thus it can show related searches about the same topic students/writers can read about and have a starting point.
  • Go to your local library. For classic research topics or some that don’t require up-to-date information, the library can provide a great source of printed data and a wide catalog of trustworthy books and editions. Furthermore, the library functions as a great writing center for those who need to research in a quiet and information-flooded place.
  • Find secondary sources and start from there. If you found a starting point article where a source is cited, look for that one and others that have been re-published the most by other authors. The goal is to use only the most credible and “used” sources that can backup your research paper. Basically, find in the secondary sources the primary sources you must include in your piece.
  • Use various sourcing types. To make a research paper versatile and trustworthy, it is recommended to use as many sourcing types as possible. Journals, books, websites, newspaper articles, documents, research studies, and others are great examples of this that will take your research paper to the next level.
  • Add one source per page. This is a standard requirement that can vary depending on the professor, but a good rule to follow is to add at least one source of information per page to back up the information written.

Research papers depend on finding good sources, which can make or break any written composition. Implementing the tips exposed above can help students and writers achieve an award-winning research paper and create a credible piece.

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