How to Find Good Sources for Your Research Paper

Gathering sources for your research paper can be challenging. It’s often recommendable to start your research with popular search engines (e.g., Google) and websites like Wikipedia. However, these should not be the final sources for your paper. Here are some tips you’ll need to find “good” sources:

  • Compile a list of research keywords or phrases to use during a library or online search. Add any other relevant search terms that you notice when researching to the list.
  • When you come across a promising source, check for any “tags” it may have. Add those tagged items to your list of research terms.
  • The tags could also be links to similar sources that could prove useful in writing your research paper.
  • Consider which sources the assignment requires and which ones are suitable for your selected topic. You can opt to return only scholarly or peer-reviewed sources in many library search engines and databases. The University of Louisville library also has a record of research guides that you can use to find databases for looking up sources.
  • Review the cited works or sources in the bibliography section that you have found helpful. You will probably find these sources helpful as well. Google Scholar, for example, includes a link labeled “Cited by” under a search result. Clicking on the link takes you to a page listing other sources that have used the publication you’re reviewing as a reference.
  • You can also ask for assistance researching from Ekstrom Library reference librarians. You can schedule an appointment to meet with said librarians here. In these meetings, they can, among other things, help you find useful databases and advise you on which are the more likely helpful sources.

How to tell if a source is good

So when considering what counts as a “good” source, it’s crucial to take the question you’re asking into consideration. Assuming you’re making an argument about how a term is commonly understood, then dictionaries and Wikipedia are a good source. And say you’re writing a research in Psychology, then your focus should be peer-review or academic sources.

How can the writing center help?

Writing Center consultants are available to meet with you to put you on the right track when starting a research project. Their assistance includes but is not limited to:

  • Brainstorming research terms
  • Deciding which sources can best assist you in answering your research question
  • Going through some helpful preliminary sources

Discussing these topics can help you determine how to approach looking for and finding relevant source materials. Moreover, the Writing Center can also connect you with its Reference Assistance and Instruction department if need be.

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