It doesn’t matter what type of paper you’re about to write; the research stage is the factor that determines the chances for a successful outcome. The sources you identify will give direction to your thinking patterns.
They will influence your ideas, and they will contribute towards the creation of a believable, authoritative paper.
Or, they will lead you in the wrong direction, and you’ll craft content based on irrelevant information. We don’t want that to happen, do we?
The most important thing to keep in mind is that the research sources are extremely important. You can’t just pick random websites out of Google’s search results and end up with a brilliant paper. If you want this project to work out, you have to devote time and attention to the first stage of its development.
We will help you understand what research means, and we’ll teach you how to collect, select, identify, and understand the right sources for the paper you are going to write.
Categorization of Research Sources
Before you can start collecting and using research sources, you need to learn how to categorize them. There are main sources that you’ll use to support your claims, and other sources that will complement those main sources. Let’s get into details:
- Primary Sources – these are published in the form of original studies, writings, reports, and reflections. You can find them in dissertations and theses, periodicals, scientific journals, books, and other sources.
- Secondary Sources – these are reports and publications that report on primary sources, or analyze/critique them. You can usually find them in reference books and periodicals.
- Tertiary Sources – guides, indexes, bibliographies, and dictionaries that help you use the primary and secondary sources in your research.
- Non-documentary Sources – sources that are not published. You can get them through interviews and communication with faculty members, experts in the relevant field of study, students, and other groups of interest.
Some projects require both primary and secondary sources, but you can use only primary in others. Consult your professor to understand their requirements before you start conducting the research.
Selecting and Identifying the Most Useful Sources: Research Tools
Before you start the research process, you may be confused by all opportunities you have. Do you start with an online research or do you hit the library right away? Should you start looking through scientific journals, or should you hunt for specific newspaper articles? It all depends on the type of project you’re working on, as well as the target audience you have in mind.
An online research is always great for a start. It’s the easiest way of obtaining information, and it enables you to find sources on any possible topic. However, you cannot take Google for granted. You have to make sure you’re working with relevant, reliable sources. Avoid Google and Bing and rely on other search engines that help you find information that deserves to be included in a research project:
- Google Scholar
- Science Daily
- Government websites
- Company websites
However, you cannot limit your research to websites if you really want to impress a professor. Here are some other sources of information to consider:
- Magazines – they provide current information that’s easy to understand. In addition, you can use them as sources of HQ illustrations and photographs. Depending on your topic, you can use magazines intended for the general audience, or themed editions dedicated to a specific topic (science, geography, sports, etc.)
- Newspapers – they offer daily news and editorial coverage that you can use. In addition, you can locate valuable statistical information in newspapers, as well as quotes from witnesses and experts.
- Academic Journals – a source of this type makes your paper look well-researched and trustworthy. In journals, you can find relevant data, charts, and statistics, peer-reviewed articles, and the most recent research on the topic you elaborate.
- Books – if you find books that provide a comprehensive view on your topic, feel free to use them as part of your research.
Whatever sources you decide to use, make sure to make a selection of the most relevant ones. Check the credibility of all information you intend to include in your paper.
Understanding and Using the Research Sources
The process of collecting and selecting sources usually takes more than expected. You will find plenty of information that deserves a spot in your paper, but you won’t be able to use all of it. A research project has to be structured and comprehensive, so you’ll need to have some limits. Select the sources you can discuss with confidence, and make sure they don’t take you away from the thesis statement.
You can’t start writing as soon as you collect the sources you need. It will take some time for you to read them and understand what the authors want to say. The sources from academic and scientific journals are written with advanced terminology that might be difficult for you to interpret. You’ll need to understand what different terms mean.
Here are few tips that will help you through this process:
- Don’t forget to take notes! It’s important to know where your ideas are coming from. As you read through the sources, you’ll gradually form your own opinions. The notes will help you support your claims with facts and discussions provided by trustworthy authors.
- Cite all sources you use! Otherwise, your research project will be labeled as plagiarism. You don’t want that to happen. Follow the precise rules of the citation standard you implement.
- It’s okay to conduct additional research if you realize you notice gaps in logic. However, you mustn’t get carried away because any extra research will distract you from the outline you’re supposed to follow. Just find the information you need and continue working on your paper.
Proper Research Is the Foundation of a Brilliant Paper
It doesn’t matter how much you know about a particular topic; you don’t know everything. If you want to write an impressive paper that will not only get you a good grade, but will also provide value for the scientific or academic community, you have to found it upon facts and reliable information.
The key in crafting a successful research project is starting on time. The stage of collecting, selecting, and understanding the sources may take weeks or even months, depending on the complexity of your topic. If you start early, there will be time to go through these stages with great diligence, so you’ll be on your way to completing an impressive academic paper.