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The Ultimate Student Guide To Finding Credible Sources

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When it comes to writing a research paper, it’s crucial that you use credible sources to make sure that the information you are stating is actually true. Knowing the difference between credible sources and unreliable sources doesn’t always come so easily with endless information flooding the internet. Thankfully, there are some simple tips that you can use to ensure that you are always using credible sources for research.

 

 

What is a Research Paper?

A research paper is a piece of academic writing that uses original research on a specific topic. There are many different types of research papers, ranging from a high school term paper to a master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation.

 

 

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How To Start A Search For Sources

1. Start simple

 

If you’re wondering how to find sources for a research paper, the easiest and best way to start is simple! Just try browsing through some common search engines to see what you find.

 

 

2. Cross Wikipedia off

 

Wikipedia, although it’s a massive pool of information, should always be avoided when writing a research paper since it allows the public to edit information. Sites such as these often run the risk of lacking accuracy, and is not one of the most credible sources for research.

 

 

3. Yes to scholarly databases

 

Scholarly databases are your best friend when it comes to finding credible sources for research. Online scholarly databases that can be trusted and are known to provide useful information for students include LexisNexis and EBSCO.

 

 

4. Newspapers and magazines

 

Although sometimes biased, newspapers and magazines can also be a great place to find information about current events.

 

 

5. The library

 

While the library seems to be the most obvious place to find information, somehow it’s often forgotten when it comes to research in the modern age. Don’t forget how useful it can truly be!

 

 

Types of Credible Sources for Research

1. What are some credible websites?

 

Many online sources do not necessarily contain information that is correct or has been checked. That’s why it’s of utmost importance to make sure that you’re using the right websites for your research, with government and educational websites generally being the most reliable.

 

Credible sources for research include: science.gov, The World Factbook, US Census Bureau, UK Statistics, and Encyclopedia Britannica.

 

 

2. What are some credible journal articles?

 

When it comes to journal articles, determining how credible they are comes much easier than other sources. This is generally due to the fact that many of these websites will include valuable information such as how many times the article has been cited, and if its been peer reviewed.

 

Some great examples of reliable websites for journal articles include Google Scholar, Oxford Academic, Microsoft Academic, Cornell University Library, and SAGE Publishing.

 

If you are ever not sure how to find credible sources, then there’s the CRAAP test, which takes into account the Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy and Purpose of the article. Take all of these factors into consideration before using a source and determining whether or not it’s credible enough. Even if it takes more time, you’ll be saving yourself tons of time in the long run by not using unreliable sources.

 

 

A group of college students working together to find credible sources for their research

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3. What are some credible news sources?

 

When it comes to news articles, more caution must be taken since it’s hard to know which sources are truly reliable and unbiased. The CRAAP test is also useful in this type of article for research.

 

A few examples of credible news sources include The New York Times, Bloomberg, and The Washington Post.

 

 

The Credibility of a Source

As you search for your research information, you will surely come across the question of how to find credible sources for a research paper. Here are some criteria to focus on to ensure that you only use the most credible of sources.

 

1. What’s the depth of it?

 

Always look at the depth of an article, not just the written content. See how long the article is, and if it contains the necessary information such as an abstract, a reference list, and documented data.

 

 

2. Who is reading it?

 

When judging the credibility of an article, it’s important to always ask yourself who the target audience of the article is. Sometimes, sources have a specific goal in mind and it can create certain biases.

 

 

3. What’s the goal?

 

Just as you should do with the audience, also ask yourself what the article is trying to achieve. What is their ultimate goal and how are they persuading you of that?

 

 

4. Who wrote it?

 

Always ask yourself who wrote the article and how reputable they are in the specific field. Look at what other published works they have as well.

 

 

5. Can it be trusted?

 

Overall, it’s key to ask yourself how reputable the source is. What kind of website is it published on? Look at the big picture.

 

 

6. Is it relevant to now?

 

Look at the date of the article, or about the specific things they are mentioning in the article. If it’s from a few years ago, it’s probably not too relevant to your current research.

 

 

7. Can it be proven?

 

While an article may sound incredibly convincing, many people have a way with words and persuasion. Stop and ask yourself whether or not what they are claiming can actually be proven.

 

 

A master’s student questioning the credibility of the sources she’s found

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How to Evaluate Source Credibility

By using unreliable sources in your research, it can discredit your status, which is why it’s incredibly important to make sure that any information you are using is up-to-date and accurate.

Here’s how to find credible sources.

 

1. What is a credible source?

 

Generally, materials that have been published within the past 10 years are considered to be credible sources for research. Another important factor to consider is the author — if they are well known and respected in their specific fields, that’s also generally a sign that the article is credible. Educational and government-run websites (.gov, .edu) tend to also be a safe source to use, as well as academic databases. Google Scholar is also a no-fail source for reliable information.

 

 

2. What is a potentially unreliable source?

 

Anything that is out of date, meaning it’s been published more than 10 years ago should be avoided. Materials published on social media platforms such as Facebook or personal blogs don’t tend to be the most credible. Always make sure that an article contains proper citations and that the website you are using ends in .com or .org.

 

 

Free Resources For Learning

There are many free resources for research available known as open educational resources. They are licensed for free use, with the intention of teaching. They can be determined as credible sources for research if they have a Creative Common license, and if the author has proven to be an expert in their field. Always make sure that the content you are using contains no biases.

 

 

Sites For Scholarly Research

When performing scholarly research, it’s extra important to make sure that your sources are credible. Government-run research is considered credible, but beware of any political sites.
University and educational websites also tend to be reliable, but still take everything you read with a grain of salt. Company websites also tend to be reliable, although their ultimate goal is usually to promote a product. Organizations which are .org websites can be professional and reliable, however, sometimes they also have their own interests.

 

 

Which Sites Can Be Relied On

The internet has no shortage of information out there. That’s why you’ll need these handy tips to determine which to use, and how to distinguish through the vast choices without feeling overwhelmed.

 

 

List of Credible Research Sources to Consider

1. Government Entities

 

These websites tend to be reliable since they are highly regulated. Examples include the CIA World Factbook and the United States Justice Statistics.

 

2. Research Think Tanks

 

Examples of reliable research think tanks include Rand Corporation, Pew Research Center and The Milken Institute.

 

 

3. Academic Libraries and Databases

 

ProQuest, Scopus, and Jstor are great examples of academic libraries and databases that can be trusted.

 

 

4. Professional Standards Organizations

 

The American Bar Association and The American Psychological Association (APA) are highly credible sources when it comes to professional standards.

 

 

How to Write a Research Paper: Step-by-Step

Now that you’re an expert on finding credible sources for research, you’re ready to go! But how do you even start to write a research paper? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

 

For starters, it’s important to get clear instructions from your professor on what they want. The next step is to start brainstorming ideas for a topic of research. Once you’ve decided and feel confident about it, you’re ready to create your outline and plan out the goal of your research paper.

 

Befriend your librarian and start to search for quality and credible sources through a variety of means. Make sure you understand your topic from top to bottom before you start writing.  As you write, be sure to always keep things factual, and that you finalize your thesis statement throughout your paper — not just at the end. That’s what’s going to guide your writing. Be sure to always keep format in mind, never forget to cite your sources, and to never skip those edits and final checks.

 

Now you are ready to write a high-quality, fact-driven research paper that’s sure to impress your professors.