These days, most students find this part of their studies the most challenging. Unsurprisingly, learning to find sources for a research paper does not relate to any learning course, and the learners rarely receive proper instructions on how to approach it. We usually only hear that Wikipedia should be crossed off the list of possible sources, a well-known rule. To remedy the situation and help you learn, this guide will help you determine what sources can be considered credible and how to avoid the most common mistakes. Choosing references for a research paper may sound complex, but things become easier if you know where to look for them and what to consider!
Importance of credible sources in research
Turning to credible sources for research is a rule most students seem to know, yet it’s always subjective, as many paper types must be considered. The same is true for the university rules and the strictness of college and university professors, who may be less objective when dealing with multimedia or non-typical sources. It also means that composing a reflective assignment research paper is not the same as working on your master’s thesis or a complex doctoral dissertation. Therefore, you should evaluate each source, check for the database’s reputation, and learn more about the content’s author before making a reference.
Still, dealing with a scholarly database or taking information from Jstor or Pubmed already indicates a reliable reference. If we compare it to something found on social media or talk about a post on Twitter, it can only be used for quoting purposes, not to support your research vision or a strong argument you wish to make. It must be mentioned that even newspapers and magazines may not represent reliable sources for research as it’s often biased. Dealing with an opinion of a particular journalist or a media group may not provide a balanced opinion, which is why it all comes down to what can support an opinion. It makes all the difference if it offers statistical information and references educational or governmental resources!
Types of credible sources for research
While it will always depend on your research type and the necessity of primary or secondary sources, many credible sources can be used. Let’s sum things up!
While the most common academic sources every college professor will look for include academic journal articles and books, many students still turn to websites containing published information and various helpful reports. Undoubtedly, it will always depend on the website and the clarity of the information presented. If you are dealing with Automotive Engineering, referencing reliable websites for research, e.g., official websites of Opel or Audio model description, can be considered a reliable source. Likewise, studying Arts, one can use museum websites to reference specific works of art or comments by experts published as an interview or an analysis. Surely, speaking of websites, do not quote Quora or Reddit as a source for your paper!
Credible journal articles
The chances are high that you already know some trustworthy scientific journals related to your field. Thus, some big names include the Jstor database, Oxford Academic, Microsoft Academic, Cornell University Library Online, SAGE Publishing, Taylor and Francis Online, and PubMed (always recommended for Healthcare and Nursing studies). You can also check the Google Scholar database to see the list of relevant journals as you browse by subject.
Reliable news sources
This category includes newspapers accessed online. Such reputable sources for research become relevant when you deal with a local event and wish to mention something taking place in the local community. Thus, turning to newspapers may be quite helpful!
Books in print and electronic publications
As one of the classic and reliable sources, books will always remain head and shoulders above the other sources. If you cite a book, check twice for ISBN or DOI for academic publications online to obtain full information about the source.
These may include audio recordings, films, television, radio, or podcast programs. While some colleges will frown upon such references in research papers, they are becoming more popular and can be considered. You should be all set as long as you provide complete information and follow the rules!
Where to find credible sources?
Wishing to save time, an average student tends to use Google by typing their subject in and hoping for the best. While it may provide some information about your research, it’s not the best way to find a reliable source! The trick here is to avoid misinformation and basic web content. Starting by checking the most popular research sources also helps you compose your References list and saves more time than checking all the possible search results. Here are the reliable places to consider for any credible research project:
Finally, you can and should consider your university’s or college library! It can be the best resource to consider since you can access any books or journals free of charge. Moreover, since you are already enrolled, you can talk to the librarian, who can direct you to the best sources for research and even provide credible suggestions. If you do not know where to start and need assistance, it’s one of the best ways to approach the problem!
Choosing the correct search engine or database
Now, when the talk goes on correct search engines or databases, it is not one versus another! It’s important to understand their major differences and learn how to use them for your needs. First, every search engine (e.g., Google or Microsoft’s Bing) approach differs in work with unstructured data and all types of sources. Therefore, your search results might look different and not represent accredited websites for research work. Dealing with databases, you will come up with structured information related to your specific subject. It also makes it possible to work on various keywords and instantly obtain citation information.
While scanning through Google will provide more results, using various variables to fine-tune and narrow down your results is much better. It will instantly remove all the social media and marketing websites by helping you to stay more focused. Now, if you are turning to specific databases based on your subject, you will deal with peer-reviewed publications sorted by date and author.
Using keywords and boolean operators to refine your research
Looking for credible sites for research papers is always time-consuming. It always shows when you go through Google and try to find something credible. The helpful solution helping to narrow things down is using specific keywords, built-in search engine tools, and boolean operators.
In simple terms, Boolean Operators are words that include “and“, “or“, “not” or “and not“. The main purpose is to use these conjunctions as you type your search query. It helps to obtain more focused and refined search results. For example, if you are looking for something related to Apple Inc and not apple that can be consumed, using the “and not” will be helpful.
The use of keywords can be basically anything and will depend on the type of data you wish to obtain. If you are looking for book publications, adding “ISBN” after the keywords is always possible to find the books dealing with your subject.
Likewise, if you wish to find academic sources with relevant citations in APA or Harvard, add this keyword to your search string to see the web sources where the relevant citation can be met.
Finally, if your research paper is argumentative, descriptive, or reflective, feel free to add “reflection”, “arguments”, or even “controversy” to your search string to let Google or any other search engine look for relevant research information.
Identifying and evaluating credible sources trick
An essential part of learning how to find credible sources for a research paper is identifying source types and learning more about credibility. It can be done by checking the following:
- Information about the author of the source. It can be a researcher with published articles, an expert with a short biography, or an organization referring to your research subject.
- The source where information in question is provided. If it’s a reliable database, you can use it safely. The same is true for books and most newspapers representing good sources for research papers. If you find a quote on some website covering other topics, try to enter the text “as is” to see where else it can be obtained, and do your best to find the original source.
- The presence of clear argumentation and school of thought. In other words, it’s not enough to cite or use something if it does not support your vision or a thesis statement you have made. Always introduce the source by finding more information about the research and the author.
Checklist version: Is the source I have a credible one?
Here are the basic aspects to consider when finding sources and evaluating the credibility of each planned reference:
- Information about the author. You have to locate the author and learn more about their credentials and background. Don’t forget to add the “author” keyword as you search.
- Set the purpose. The most important is to define the goal of your source and show your readers (target audience) why it’s important. Make it clear if you want to inform or persuade. Does your source achieve that?
- Date of publication. While some research sources may seem relevant, check when the source data has been published and created. If some revisions or updates have been mentioned, use them in your research paper as well.
- The accuracy aspect. Try to define whether the information provided is based on certain facts or represents an author’s opinion.
- Readability factor. The source (not your citation!) must be clear and accessible. Focus on those sources that are organized clearly and show credibility right from the start.
List of the best academic research sources
While we have already mentioned the most useful resources for research to help you find credible sources for a research paper, here are more scientific databases to cover various disciplines. With millions of different research publications, you will definitely find something to make your research credible:
Now, take your time to explore them all, and never have to worry about getting your sources right!