Although academic writing is considered to be one of the biggest challenges facing students, writing itself is by far not the only issue you will encounter when working on a research paper. In fact, conducting a study can be even more time-consuming and stressful than writing.
Of course, today, looking for information has become way easier than decades ago. But, despite the availability of information, there are many other issues that come along with it. Namely, it is the unreliability of a huge amount of data that’s somewhere out there.
Finding quality sources today is a real challenge. And, to complicate matters, unlike writing that can be delegated to professionals there is no way to delegate research. So, you are all by yourself in this struggle.
But don’t get discouraged just yet! Though there is no formal way to avoid researching, it doesn’t mean you can’t make it easier. And, in this guide, we are going to tell you how.
8 Steps to Finding Quality Sources for Research Paper
So, you are about to start looking for information for your paper. How can you save time and, at the same time, ensure that you find high-quality and reliable sources?
All you need is to follow this step-by-step guide.
1. Identify Your Topic First
One thing you should always keep in mind is that your research process should never start with the research itself. Many students make this mistake. They start looking for information having absolutely no idea what exactly they are looking for. Such an approach will only help you waste time. After all, how can you get to the final destination when you have no idea which way you are going?
This brings us to the first step. Before you do anything else, you must have a well-defined topic or, at least, the main question. This way you will use your time efficiently and find reliable sources easier.
2. Always Remember the Purpose
This is not exactly a step but rather a recommendation. As a student, you probably know that there are multiple types of this work. Respectively, to find quality and relevant information, you need to know which type of research paper you are doing and always keep its purpose in mind.
3. Make a List of Keywords
Effective research is all about using keywords. How? For example, let’s look at Google. When you use it to look for information, you enter a query. The more specific it is, the more accurate results you get. And, even if you have never realized this yet, you always use relevant keywords in each query.
The same concept is applicable to seeking materials elsewhere, both online and offline. Therefore, the next step is to make a list of keywords. This can include the main topic-related terms, persons, concepts, and so on. With such a list, you will find information much faster and easier.
4. Start in the Library
Even if going to the library feels too old-fashioned, it is still the most effective way to find relevant information. Libraries contain plenty of books on a wide variety of topics. And the best part is that you don’t have to check them for relevance. Even in the 21st century, books are still the best sources of valid and accurate data. Especially the ones in your school library.
5. Consider All Types of Sources
Using books is a great way to find reliable facts. However, you shouldn’t use only bare facts as the basis for your paper. If you do, it will most likely turn out not too engaging and definitely not convincing. But, if you can blend different types of information, including examples from literature and history, documentary films, statistics, interviews, etc., your paper will make a much more powerful impression on the reader. Don’t forget to add analysis, too.
Thus, when looking for information, be sure to seek different types to make your paper more thorough, interesting, and all-encompassing.
6. Take Notes
Though many students prefer to skip this step as it may feel inconvenient to distract on note-taking while looking for the needed data, we strongly recommend you taking notes on everything important you find. This will significantly simplify the whole process.
7. Look for More Data Online
As you may already know, there are several types of sources. Namely, there are primary and secondary ones. While it is generally better to look for primary sources in a library, you can continue your research on the web to discover secondary sources. Also, sometimes, when you take your research online, you can find the data that is unavailable in the library. So, your next step is to look for more information on the internet.
At this stage, it is vital to know where to look for valid data. Often, it’s quite challenging to distinguish reliable sources from unreliable ones. To help you get started, here are some trustworthy sites where you can find valid information:
- Springer Science+Business Media
- United States Bureau of Justice Statistics
- American Psychological Association
- The Center for Economic Policy and Research
There are many other trustworthy resources, too. Namely, we would recommend you to look for data on governmental sites, academic databases and libraries, official websites of organizations, etc. Also, you can use academic engines like Google Scholar.
If you use other websites, be sure to check each for credibility.
8. Analyze Obtained Data
Finally, the last stage of your research process is the evaluation and analysis of collected information. Even if you use only credible and trusted sources, you should still analyze the data you collect. This will help you identify your key sources and organize them for your future paper.
The Bottom Line
Whether you look for information in the library or online, eventually, the success of the whole research process gets down to your ability to critically evaluate the information you find.
With the guidelines and tips discussed above, finding quality sources for a research paper shouldn’t be too big of a deal. So, don’t hesitate to follow our guide and you will soon notice that finding data is no longer a time-consuming and challenging task!