When given the task to write a research paper, it is easy to quickly do a Google or Wikipedia search. However, do not be surprised if your professor tells you that Wikipedia is not a credible source.
- Wikipedia is a website that allows multiple users to edit and create a profile on any given topic. Use Wikipedia for quick and general information, but it is best to check facts and gather information from encyclopedias.
- Academic databases are easily accessible to college and graduate students. Find out from your school library your access code and search through hundreds of peer reviewed academic papers. Your discipline and topic will dictate which database to use (Lexis Nexus, JSTOR, EBSCO, Psych, etc). You can even do a free search via Google Scholar; however some of the articles are not full text.
- Newspapers and magazines are a great source for understanding current and past events. Use popular and well known newspapers and journals to gather information on your topic (New York Times, Times, Wall Street Journal).
- The library is not just for fiction books, studying, and internet browsing. Depending on the type of library, you will find plenty of books to help in your search for information. Do not hesitate to ask the reference desk for help.
- Sources are not just limited to books, newspapers, and scholarly papers, sources can be audio and visual. When using qualitative research methods, be sure to check your style manual on how to document correctly.
A key component to your research paper* success is learning how to evaluate and gather sources. With these few tips, you will be on your way to an A+ paper.
*These tips are not just limited to academic writing.
An urban planning PhD student finding peace in creating a balance between the mind, body, soul, & environment.
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