CompFAQ/Research/Strong Sources

From Gerald R. Lucas
📝 English Composition Writing FAQ 11011102📖

Finding Strong and Credible Sources for Your College Essays

When working on a college essay, one of the most critical components is finding strong and credible sources to support your arguments. With the vast amount of information available online, it can be challenging to sift through all the sources and identify the ones that are reputable and reliable. Using weak or unreliable sources can weaken your argument and diminish the overall quality of your essay. Therefore, it is essential to know how to find and evaluate sources effectively.

Finding Sources

When it comes to finding sources for college essays, you should remember that not all sources are created equal. While the internet has made it easier than ever to find information on just about any topic, it can also be overwhelming to sift through the vast amount of content available online. Ensure that the evidence is relevant, credible, and properly cited. You should also use a variety of evidence types to provide a well-rounded and compelling case for your argument.

The best place to get evidence to support your argument will depend on the specific topic and context of your essay. However, here are some general sources to consider:

  1. Academic research articles: Academic journals are perhaps the best source of information and can provide you with the latest research and data on your topic.
  2. Books: Books can provide in-depth analysis and perspective on a topic and are often written by experts in the field. Consider books published by university presses before those by more popular publishing houses.
  3. Government publications: Government reports and statistics can provide objective data and information on a wide range of topics.
  4. Expert interviews: Interviewing experts in your field or related fields can provide firsthand insights and perspectives on your topic. Also, published interviews in periodicals and books are also strong sources.
  5. Online databases: Online databases, such as JSTOR or ProQuest, can provide access to a wide range of full-text academic articles and research studies. These are often available through your university library.
  6. Reliable websites: Websites such as those run by reputable organizations or academic institutions can provide credible information and data.

Evaluating Sources

In order to ensure that your sources are credible and reliable, there are a few key things to keep in mind. First and foremost, consider the source itself. Is it a reputable publication or organization? Does it have a history of producing quality, well-researched content? Be wary of sources that seem biased or overly opinionated.

Another important factor to consider is the date of the source. While some topics may have timeless information that remains relevant, others may require more up-to-date information. Make sure to check the date of publication to ensure that you are using the most recent information available.

Also consider the author of the source. Are they an expert in the field? Do they have credentials or experience that make them a credible source of information? Take the time to research the author and their background to ensure that they are a reliable source of information. If the source is a company or no author is stated, you should probably look elsewhere.

Another important consideration when using online sources is the format of the source itself. Is it a scholarly article or a blog post? Is it a video or a podcast? Different formats may be more appropriate for different types of research questions, so it's important to consider the format of the source when evaluating its credibility.

The key to finding strong, credible sources for college essays is to do your research and carefully evaluate each source before using it in your work. By taking the time to find and use high-quality sources, you can ensure that your essays are well-supported and grounded in reliable information.

Consulting or Citing Sources

Consulting sources and citing sources are two different steps in the research process.

Consulting sources refers to the act of looking for and gathering information from various sources to support your research. This can include reading books, articles, or online resources, conducting interviews, and reviewing data sets or other forms of evidence. In this stage, the researcher is primarily concerned with finding relevant and reliable information to support their argument or thesis.

Citing sources, on the other hand, involves giving credit to the sources that were consulted during the research process. This is done by including proper citations within the text of the essay or paper, as well as in a bibliography or works cited page. The purpose of citing sources is to acknowledge the original authors and to allow readers to locate the sources if they want to further investigate the information presented in the paper.

The best sources to cite depend on the topic and requirements of the assignment. In general, it is best to cite sources that are:

  • Peer-reviewed: Peer-reviewed sources, like books published by university presses and scholarly journals, are evaluated by experts in the field to ensure accuracy and credibility.
  • Recent: Sources that are recent demonstrate that the writer has engaged with the most up-to-date research on the topic.
  • Relevant: Sources that are relevant to the topic at hand will provide the strongest support for the writer’s argument.
  • Credible: Sources from reputable organizations and authors lend credibility to the writer’s argument.
  • Diverse: Using a variety of sources, including primary and secondary sources, can provide a well-rounded argument and demonstrate that the writer has conducted thorough research.

While you may consult many sources to get information about your topic, some of them should not be cited. These include:

  • Personal blogs or social media posts: These sources are often biased and lack credibility.
  • News articles from unreliable sources: Check the reputation of a news outlet before using it as a source.
  • Wikipedia: While Wikipedia can be a good starting point for research, it should not be cited. See the note below.
  • Websites with no author or date: If a website doesn't provide information about who wrote it or when it was published, it may not be credible.
  • Outdated sources: Sources that are outdated may not reflect current thinking or research on a topic.

 Note: In general, reference sources, like dictionaries and encyclopedias, may be consulted but should not be cited in academic writing, as they often provide general information that can be found elsewhere and may not have undergone the same level of rigorous scrutiny and review as other academic sources. Use sources like Wikipedia to get an overview of the topic and consult the secondary sources the article lists in its bibliography.

Written: 2002, 2022; Revised: 04-12-2023; Version: Beta 0.7 💬