Research Paper Source

When your professor assigns a research paper, she might tell you “only use scholarly sources.” (If she doesn’t, she just expects you to already know this.) For any college level research paper, the only sources you should use are academic or scholarly sources – sources written by scholars (people with academic training and research in a specific field), for scholarly purposes (not popular consumption).

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This is one of my favorite ways to do find sources, but there are a few things to be aware of.

First, you can often view many chapters for free, but you won’t have access to the whole book, and you can’t download it.

(There are exceptions, because there are magazines and blogs written for academics too, but typically these formats are not going to work as well for your research).

These are written for an academic audience, but they are a summary or commentary on the research rather than the research itself.

If you are writing a paper for an interdisciplinary class, you can look for sources from a variety of disciplines, but some fields look specifically for scholarly sources from their own field.

History papers, for example, should typically cite historians but not necessarily sociologists or political scientists. Current and former professors who have studied your research topic might make a connection to a source that you wouldn’t know.

This means that while one scholar or a group of scholars did the research, wrote the source, etc., before publication it was reviewed extensively by other scholars in the field (the author’s peers) to make sure the work is up to snuff.

So you don’t even have to decide if it is an appropriate source: those peer reviewers have done it for you. It will be very easy to tell where the writer/researcher got his information, because it should all be clearly cited.

When you are discussing your research paper proposal with your professor, ask if they have anything they would recommend.

After that, though, I wouldn’t go back to your professor for recommended sources until you have exhausted the items below and are stuck…do your own legwork first.


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