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Research Paper Sources

Research Paper Sources are the heart of any good research project.

The heart of a research paper is the “research”. This research is based upon source material that makes your argument credible. The sources that you use are expert articles and publications on your topic that prove your thesis or a statement you have made.

The sources you choose for your research paper are going to determine the quality of your research paper. A professor can look at the bibliography or works cited page  and determine how much effort you put into the project and whether or not you understand the material without even reading one word of what you’ve written! Therefore, understanding what makes a good source, a bad source or an ugly source is essential!

Appropriate Research Paper Sources:

  • Nonfiction books
  • Academic Journal Articles
  • Peer reviewed professional publications
  • Research-based material from university web sites
  • Primary sources
  •  .gov and .org websites.

Inappropriate References:

  • Newspaper editorial columns
  • Magazine articles
  • Unsupported web sites
  • Blogs
  • Academic papers that have not been subjected to peer review

Evaluating the Research Paper Sources You’ve Chosen

A complete and accurate list of references must be included with every research paper.

Ask yourself questions like these about each book or article you include:

  1. Has the author formulated a problem/issue?
    Meaning, is the goal of the source clearly outlined and does the author add to your knowledge of the topic?
  2. Is it clearly defined? Is its significance (scope, severity, relevance) clearly established?
    Has the author taken the proper steps to insure that the research is significant and has a clear purpose.
  3. Could the problem have been approached more effectively from another perspective?
    Is this really the best way to approach the topic?
  4. What is the author’s research orientation (e.g., interpretive, critical science, combination)?
    This helps you see if the research is valid and supports your hypothesis from the correct perspective. For example, if you are writing a psychological thesis, you do not want an article that is interpretive.
  5. What is the author’s theoretical framework (e.g., psychological, developmental, feminist)?
    Do a little research on the author and make certain that his/her research is legitimate and not tainted by personal bias. For example, a psychology article by Camille Paglia is going to be feminist biased because she is a psychologist but also a radical feminist. Generally this is not a good idea for academic research source material.
  6. What is the relationship between the theoretical and research perspectives?
  7. Has the author evaluated the literature relevant to the problem/issue?
    Does the author include literature taking positions she or he does not agree with?
  8. In a research study, how good are the basic components of the study design (e.g., population, intervention, outcome)?
    How accurate and valid are the measurements? Is the analysis of the data accurate and relevant to the research question? Are the conclusions validly based upon the data and analysis?
  9. In material written for a popular readership, does the author use appeals to emotion, one-sided examples, or rhetorically-charged language and tone?
    Is there an objective basis to the reasoning, or is the author merely “proving” what he or she already believes?
  10. How does the author structure the argument?
    Can you “deconstruct” the flow of the argument to see whether or where it breaks down logically (e.g., in establishing cause-effect relationships)? In what ways does this book or article contribute to our understanding of the problem under study, and in what ways is it useful for practice? What are the strengths and limitations?
  11. How does this book or article relate to the specific thesis or question I am developing?
Here is Paper Masters’ awesome list of academic resource locations that can be found on the Internet:
  1. EBSCOHost – The best place to find academic sources. Each university has access to EBSCOHost and students are given access through their University Library free of charge. Your University Library Website will show you how to access EBSCOHost. In many cases, you need look no further than EBSCOHost for the sources you need to write a great research paper.
  2. Google Scholar - Google scholar is a repository of academic articles and books that Google offers free of charge. Not all articles are fully accessible; however, a majority of them are and the list is growing longer every day.
  3. Google Books – Google Books is outstanding and many full text textbooks and non-fiction books can be accessed for free here.
  4. Directory of Open Access Journals – Free, full text, quality controlled scientific and scholarly journals, covering all subjects and many languages.

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