Preparing Sources for a Research Paper
If you study at college or university, there is no way you could avoid writing a research paper or an essay. Quite often students have to write two or more research papers per term and this doesn’t seem to be something extraordinary. Research paper writing can be tough but not impossible, especially if the topic of the research is interesting for a student or important for his/her academic growth. The first question students usually ask is where to look for the necessary information. Obviously, not every source can be considered credible. What students need is such sources that give accurate information based on real research. Thus, they are looking for articles that are published in peer-reviewed journals or for scholarly publishing press. Therefore, we can list a few sources that cannot be used for research papers:
• Students’ favorite Wikipedia is an amazing project indeed and is a perfect point to start from because it provides you with a number of relevant terms and links to many pages, but in fact Wikipedia is edited by a huge number of people with different backgrounds and cannot be always relied on. In case you find some important information there, do not hesitate to double check it in order to avoid problems.
• Whatever students hear on television or radio or read on the Internet might help them notice the details they have not thought about before. However, TV news and programs can only give ideas and not credible information for writing a research paper. Anything that students want to mention in their writing has to be taken from a peer-reviewed article.
• Popular books are not considered credible sources for research papers; only academic books can serve for this purpose.
• Magazine articles are often entertaining and professionally written, but they don’t meet the necessary requirements.
Even though the list of unacceptable sources is given, the question is still there: where do students find peer-reviewed articles and academic books? To begin with, every college and university has a good library where you can always find a book or a journal that works perfectly well for you research paper. If you want to use your school library, you need to know where the materials you are looking for are stored. For a better search you will need the main card catalog which stores all books and journals available in the library in alphabetic order. You can look either for an author or for a title. Today working with the card catalog is very easy because all library information is computerized and your task is to go online and to look for the required book and check if it is available. Librarians are always there to help students find all information required for a successful work. Moreover, schools provide students with online access to their libraries where they can search for materials and see whether they are available online. This saves a lot of time and lets students do everything fast. Even if you have found a great article but it is unavailable, don’t be frustrated: quite often libraries have an opportunity to order this article from another school and forward it to you.
Another option that saves a lot of students is Google Scholar that gives students an opportunity to look for scholarly literature such as theses, dissertations, articles, and court opinion, etc. To start using Google Scholar open a new window tab, type scholar.google.com on the address bar, and press Enter. Google Scholar works pretty much like Google: just type the necessary word or phrase on the search button and go. In case you are looking for a particular author, put his or her name in quotation marks. For better results use the author’s initials and not the full name. If you need an article, put its name in quotation marks too. Sometimes students do not know which article they need: in such cases you can type a phrase like “articles about Linguistic Relativity” on the search button and Google Scholar will find every article that is somehow related to this subject. In case you have found a relevant article and need more similar sources, you can click on ‘Related articles’ right underneath the title of the found article. Google Scholar will provide you with the list of similar works discussing the same subject.
Students love Google Scholar not only because it provides them with a big number of academic journals, papers, and books, but also because it gives citations of these works. Thus, students o not have to write citations themselves: they just need to click on ‘Cite’ and Google Scholar will give them APA, MLA, and other styles citations. In case you must submit your research article in a few hours and your bibliography is not ready yet, do not panic and use Google Scholar. This will make your writing much easier.
Certainly, writing a high-quality research paper is not only about gathering the material, but finding credible sources is an essential part of conducting research. A new book will lead to a new idea; this idea will make you look for additional information. The new sources might contradict the previous ones, and in the end you will successfully formulate your own hypothesis. The more sources you read, the bigger picture you can have and the easier it will be for you to set your own research to a larger context.