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How to Find Sources | Scholarly Articles, Books, Etc.

Published on June 13, 2022 by Eoghan Ryan . Revised on May 31, 2023.

It’s important to know how to find relevant sources when writing a  research paper , literature review , or systematic review .

The types of sources you need will depend on the stage you are at in the research process , but all sources that you use should be credible , up to date, and relevant to your research topic.

There are three main places to look for sources to use in your research:

Research databases

  • Your institution’s library
  • Other online resources

Table of contents

Library resources, other online sources, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about finding sources.

You can search for scholarly sources online using databases and search engines like Google Scholar . These provide a range of search functions that can help you to find the most relevant sources.

If you are searching for a specific article or book, include the title or the author’s name. Alternatively, if you’re just looking for sources related to your research problem , you can search using keywords. In this case, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the scope of your project and of the most relevant keywords.

Databases can be general (interdisciplinary) or subject-specific.

  • You can use subject-specific databases to ensure that the results are relevant to your field.
  • When using a general database or search engine, you can still filter results by selecting specific subjects or disciplines.

Example: JSTOR discipline search filter

Filtering by discipline

Check the table below to find a database that’s relevant to your research.

Google Scholar

To get started, you might also try Google Scholar , an academic search engine that can help you find relevant books and articles. Its “Cited by” function lets you see the number of times a source has been cited. This can tell you something about a source’s credibility and importance to the field.

Example: Google Scholar “Cited by” function

Google Scholar cited by function

Boolean operators

Boolean operators can also help to narrow or expand your search.

Boolean operators are words and symbols like AND , OR , and NOT that you can use to include or exclude keywords to refine your results. For example, a search for “Nietzsche NOT nihilism” will provide results that include the word “Nietzsche” but exclude results that contain the word “nihilism.”

Many databases and search engines have an advanced search function that allows you to refine results in a similar way without typing the Boolean operators manually.

Example: Project Muse advanced search

Project Muse advanced search

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where to find research paper sources

You can find helpful print sources in your institution’s library. These include:

  • Journal articles
  • Encyclopedias
  • Newspapers and magazines

Make sure that the sources you consult are appropriate to your research.

You can find these sources using your institution’s library database. This will allow you to explore the library’s catalog and to search relevant keywords. You can refine your results using Boolean operators .

Once you have found a relevant print source in the library:

  • Consider what books are beside it. This can be a great way to find related sources, especially when you’ve found a secondary or tertiary source instead of a primary source .
  • Consult the index and bibliography to find the bibliographic information of other relevant sources.

You can consult popular online sources to learn more about your topic. These include:

  • Crowdsourced encyclopedias like Wikipedia

You can find these sources using search engines. To refine your search, use Boolean operators in combination with relevant keywords.

However, exercise caution when using online sources. Consider what kinds of sources are appropriate for your research and make sure the sites are credible .

Look for sites with trusted domain extensions:

  • URLs that end with .edu are educational resources.
  • URLs that end with .gov are government-related resources.
  • DOIs often indicate that an article is published in a peer-reviewed , scientific article.

Other sites can still be used, but you should evaluate them carefully and consider alternatives.

If you want to know more about ChatGPT, AI tools , citation , and plagiarism , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • ChatGPT vs human editor
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  • Using ChatGPT for your studies
  • What is ChatGPT?
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  • Common knowledge

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You can find sources online using databases and search engines like Google Scholar . Use Boolean operators or advanced search functions to narrow or expand your search.

For print sources, you can use your institution’s library database. This will allow you to explore the library’s catalog and to search relevant keywords.

It is important to find credible sources and use those that you can be sure are sufficiently scholarly .

  • Consult your institute’s library to find out what books, journals, research databases, and other types of sources they provide access to.
  • Look for books published by respected academic publishing houses and university presses, as these are typically considered trustworthy sources.
  • Look for journals that use a peer review process. This means that experts in the field assess the quality and credibility of an article before it is published.

When searching for sources in databases, think of specific keywords that are relevant to your topic , and consider variations on them or synonyms that might be relevant.

Once you have a clear idea of your research parameters and key terms, choose a database that is relevant to your research (e.g., Medline, JSTOR, Project MUSE).

Find out if the database has a “subject search” option. This can help to refine your search. Use Boolean operators to combine your keywords, exclude specific search terms, and search exact phrases to find the most relevant sources.

There are many types of sources commonly used in research. These include:

You’ll likely use a variety of these sources throughout the research process , and the kinds of sources you use will depend on your research topic and goals.

Scholarly sources are written by experts in their field and are typically subjected to peer review . They are intended for a scholarly audience, include a full bibliography, and use scholarly or technical language. For these reasons, they are typically considered credible sources .

Popular sources like magazines and news articles are typically written by journalists. These types of sources usually don’t include a bibliography and are written for a popular, rather than academic, audience. They are not always reliable and may be written from a biased or uninformed perspective, but they can still be cited in some contexts.

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  • Finding credible sources for academic research can be a major challenge for many college students.
  • A growing number of online databases and libraries offer millions of potential sources.
  • The university library helps students access restricted academic sources.
  • Discover new online resources to make your next research project more efficient.

Every college student conducts research at some point. And professors have strong views on what counts as a credible academic resource. Choosing the wrong sources can hurt your grade.

So how can you conduct research efficiently while avoiding sleepless nights in the campus library? Online academic research websites make it easier to find reliable sources quickly.

College students conduct academic research in all kinds of disciplines, including science, history, literature, engineering, and education. And when it comes to college research papers , academic resources are the best sources.

Rather than pulling random facts from the internet — and running into problems with citations — college students need to know how to find credible sources and how to use online academic tools. Keep reading to learn how you can find the best credible sources for your college research needs.

How to Find Credible Sources for Research

How can you find credible sources for research and avoid misinformation? Your instructor likely recommends avoiding general web content or Wikipedia.

Finding the most reliable websites for research starts with evaluating the website itself. Sites run by academic or government organizations rank high in reliability. Databases and specialized search engines can also provide good research sources.

Next, make sure you understand the source of the information and the process used to publish it. Scholarly articles and books that undergo peer review make for the best academic resources.

Finally, when in doubt, check with your instructor or an academic librarian. They can help point you to reliable sources or double-check sources you're unsure about.

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The 10 Best Academic Research Sources

What resources will point you toward reliable sources for your academic research? Rather than scrolling through pages of search results, turn to these academic resources when you need to find sources.

1. Google Scholar

Looking for an academic article, thesis , or abstract? Google Scholar should be your first stop. Google Scholar helps you find related works, locate full documents at your school library , and access scholarly research.

While Google created Google Scholar, it's very different from a general online search. Google Scholar brings together academic articles and ranks them based on the authors, publication location, and citation record. That means the top results generally represent the most reliable scholarship on your topic.

For journal articles, books, images, and even primary sources, JSTOR ranks among the best online resources for academic research. JSTOR's collection spans 75 disciplines, with strengths in the humanities and social sciences . The academic research database includes complete runs of over 2,800 journals.

And if you're looking for images, turn to Artstor , which offers over 2.5 million images related to the arts, sciences, and literature. However, JSTOR is not an open-access database. That means you'll need to log in through your university library, which typically includes off-campus access .

3. Library of Congress

As the largest library in the world, the Library of Congress is an amazing online resource for academic research. Students can search its collections to access digital resources, videos, audio recordings, photographs, and maps.

The library's materials also include notated music, web archives, legislation, and 3D objects. You'll find materials for almost any topic in its extensive collections. You can search historic American newspapers from 1777-1963 with the Chronicling America tool or look up pirate trials in another digital collection.

4. PubMed Central

The National Library of Medicine, part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, runs PubMed Central. Founded in 2000, the database includes academic scholarship dating back to the 18th century. The resource connects college students with life sciences and biomedical academic sources.

And as an open-access database, PubMed Central offers free access to scholarly literature. Today, PubMed Central has over 7 million full-text records, making it a great resource for students in the life sciences or medical fields.

5. Google Books

Whether you're looking for a recent publication or an out-of-print book, there's a good chance you'll find it on Google Books. In 2019, Google announced that Google Books contains over 40 million books .

You can enter any search term to find books that contain matches. And you can download the full text of any book in the public domain — which includes 10 million titles. Make sure to check publisher and author information when using Google Books.

The site also includes reference pages that link to book reviews. Keep in mind that you'll have more limited access to recent books. Still, Google Books is a great first step to find sources that you can later look for at your campus library.

6. Science.gov

If you're looking for scientific research, Science.gov is a great option. The site provides full-text documents, scientific data, and other resources from federally funded research.

A U.S. government site, Science.gov searches more than 60 databases and 2,200 scientific websites. You'll find over 200 million pages of research and development information, including projects funded by 14 federal agencies. Students in any STEM field can benefit from the resource.

7. Digital Commons Network

University librarians curate the Digital Commons Network, which connects students with peer-reviewed articles. The site's other resources include dissertations, book chapters, conference proceedings, and working papers.

The Digital Commons Network includes scholarly work from diverse disciplines like architecture, business, education, law, and the sciences. You can also access humanities, social sciences, and engineering scholarship through the network.

8. ResearchGate

ResearchGate has been described as social networking for research scientists. But ResearchGate is also a great option to find open-access academic sources. Scholars upload their work to ResearchGate, which makes it available to the public for free.

Currently, over 20 million researchers around the world use the site, which contains over 135 million publications. College students looking for scientific research can often find resources on ResearchGate and even connect with scholars.

9. WorldCat

When you're looking for library resources, WorldCat is one of the best tools. Connected to over 10,000 libraries, WorldCat is a database that allows you to search library collections.

The database lists books and articles available at your local libraries, making it easier to find materials that are not available online. In addition to books, WorldCat contains music, videos, audiobooks, and scholarly articles.

You can also find digital research materials, including photos. When you're logged into WorldCat through your university library, you can also access full-text articles and other resources. Or you can use WorldCat to find sources to request through interlibrary loan.

10. Your University Library

When you're conducting academic research, your university library can be one of your best resources. In addition to online databases, journal articles, and books, your campus library also has academic librarians who can point you to the best sources.

When you don't know where to start, reach out to an academic librarian to learn more about your school's research tools. Or use interlibrary loan to get a scanned copy of an article. Many of the campus library's resources are available online, making them easy to access.

How to Access Academic Resources

Many sites offer open-access resources. That means anyone can access the materials. Other sites restrict what you can read. For example, you might find some blank pages when searching on Google Books because of copyright restrictions. And many academic articles are behind paywalls.

Fortunately, college students benefit from one of the best resources for conducting research: the university library. Your library likely subscribes to multiple academic databases and journals. If you run into a paywall, check whether your library offers access to the resource.

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  • / How can I find good sources for my research paper?

Collecting sources for a research paper can sometimes be a daunting task. When beginning your research, it’s often a good idea to begin with common search engines, like Google, and general descriptions like you can find on Wikipedia. Often though these are not the sources you ultimately want in your paper. Some tips for getting from this beginning research to finding “good” sources include the following.

  • Make a list of research terms you can use when searching in the library or even online. Start with your core list, but also add other keywords and phrases that you notice as you research. Also, when you find a good source, look to see if it has “tags.” You can add these phrases to your list search terms. Sometimes the tags are also links that you can follow which will take you to lists of similar sources.
  • Think about the kind of sources required by the assignment and also the kind of sources that are “good” for your question or topic. Many library search engines and databases have the option to return only “peer-reviewed” or “scholarly” sources—which are sources that have been read by other scholars before being published.  Also, the UofL library offers a list of Research Guides which can help you find useful databases for finding sources. When considering what counts as a “good” source, it’s smart to consider what question you’re asking. If you’re making an argument about how a term is commonly understood, then using dictionaries or Wikipedia would be a good source. If you’re making an argument about developing research in Psychology, then you’ll want to focus on those peer-review or scholarly sources.
  • Review the works cited or bibliography section of sources that have already been helpful. The sources they are using will probably be helpful to you also. Some search engines, like Google Scholar, include a link under a source that says “Cited by”—which brings back a list of other sources that have used the source you’re looking at. Google Scholar provides varying quality in their results, depending on the subject area and other things, but it’s a great place to start.
  • The reference librarians in Ekstrom library (right next door to the University Writing Center) are available to help you with your research. You can make appointments to meet with them here. During these appointments, they can help you find the most helpful databases, decide what sources might be most helpful, and more.

What can the Writing Center do to help?

Writing Center consultants can meet with you to help you get started and find a good direction when working on a research project. This includes but certainly isn’t limited to brainstorming lists of research terms, deciding which kinds of sources will best help you answer your research question(s), looking at some preliminary helpful sources, and more. Talking about these topics can help you figure out how to approach searching for and finding good sources. We also know how and when to refer you for a follow-up appointment with the Reference Assistance and Instruction department.

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Reading sources for your research paper.

Beginning a research paper can be overwhelming unless you know how to set goals for yourself when you read. Think of gathering sources as a triangle where the top are the 5-6 excellent sources:

5-6 excellent sources -read 10-12 good ones-skim 20-30 available sources-find 40 titles in databases-begin with

For a research paper of about 7-10 pages, you should think of gathering 40 titles exactly on your subject from a variety of places (see below). But only 20-30 will be available to you (some will be missing, others don’t arrive in time from interlibrary loan, others are misleading and don’t relate to your subject at all). When you do find what is available, then skim these sources and make a quick decision: yes or no? Those that look good (that answer your research question) you save. Pitch those that don’t address your specific question. Finally, we come to READING. Save your precious time only for those 5-6 BEST sources; those are the ones you want for quotes and paraphrases in your eventual draft.


Most students need a variety of sources–not just books or journal articles or web sites. Think of checking out the following sources for your paper:

books, chapters in books (books are often easier to read than journals)

journal articles

magazine articles

newspaper articles

Internet Web sites

You find these sources through INDEXES, either on the computer or in the library reserve section. An index is a collection of what’s been written in a particular area for a particular year. At CSU, you can access these indexes through the library web site using the following steps:

find the CSU web site www.csuohio.edu

go to the libraries page: Michael Schwartz Library ( http://library.csuohio.edu/) Law Library ( https://www.law.csuohio.edu/lawlibrary/ )

click on Indexes and Abstracts

you can search by Title and Subjec t

the most general index is Periodical Abstracts – good for quick info but not always scholarly

check a number of databases until your subject comes up easily – don’t get discouraged – no one knows all these databases or how they work, just keep at it for about 1-2 hours.

be VERY VERY selective about the titles you pick – aim for 40 on your subject. The databases can bring up thousands of hits–be very selective.


Once you have a working title list, make another separate trip to the library for the next step–this stuff can be very tedious and your short term memory tires quickly so it’s better to make separate trips of only 2 hours maximum.

Now you have to find your sources. If you go into OhioLink, you can check whether CSU owns it or not. If we do, you can find the source yourself in the library. If not, you have 2 choices. If another OhioLink school owns it, make your request through OhioLink. If no school owns it, you have to go through Interlibrary Loan. You find their web site on the main page of the Library web page. In either case, you don’t have to leave your chair to order your sources. Just remember: OhioLink will NOT call you to tell you your books have arrived. You have to check the SCHOLAR page under "View Your Own Record" to see the status of your order. It takes about a week for most books to come in through OhioLink; Interlibrary Loan can take longer.


For sources you’ve skimmed, make up annotating cards as follows:

Goleman, Daniel. Emotional Intelligence. New York: Bantam, 1995. ---looks great for my subject, especially Chap. 9 on marriage

The card has the usual bibliographical information and a quick note to remind yourself about what you wanted to read.

Another set of cards–notecards–can be used for your quotes and paraphrases. The 2 cards–annotating and notetaking cards–make writing easier because your cards can be indexed according to subjects. See the example below:

Goleman success in marriage (my subject) 143–successful couples "show each other that they are being listened to. Since feeling is often exactly what the aggrieved partner is really after, emotionally an act of empathy is a masterly tension reducer."

Writers often keep 2 sets of cards so they can use their research easily in different projects.

If you have any questions, call the Writing Center at ext. 6981.

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Writing Research Papers

  • Information Literacy Goals
  • Why Write Research Papers?
  • Inquiry Process
  • Research Topic / Question
  • Developing Research Questions & Search Terms
  • Source Types - Part 1
  • Source Types - Part 2
  • Finding Sources - OneSearch & Databases
  • Evaluating Information
  • Synthesis / Writing
  • Citing Sources & Bibliographies

Finding Sources - Overview

The main ways to find information sources for your research paper via the library's website is to use the OneSearch (it's like the Google of the library) or our databases. A database is a just a place that gathers together information from many sources so that you can search across that information and retrieve it. The OneSearch is like a database, except it helps you find a lot of different kinds of sources all at once. Explore this website from Baruch College that presents an overview of how OneSearch works. You can search the OneSearch using the keywords and search terms you developed earlier right here in this guide or head over to our library's website and start there.

Following the OneSearch box, you'll find links to some useful databases as well as some additional tutorials to help get you started. Explore the databases using your keywords and search terms.

Once you start looking for sources, if you have any questions or need help, chat with us. A link can be found in the "Get Help!" section of this guide.

Multidisciplinary Databases

Below are databases you can use to search for scholarly and popular artIcles:

For Popular (and some scholarly) articles, start with MasterFile Complete and Readers' Guide Full Text.

For Scholarly articles with a mix of popular articles, start with Academic Search Complete.

Consult the Library Research Guides to find Databases on the subject you are researching:  https://libguides.lehman.edu

Novel NY

Here are some tutorials for these common databases to help get you started using them:

Academic Search Complete Tutorial - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DjKNxqiuwpY - Note: The layout and functionality of Academic Search Complete is similar to Readers' Guide Full Text and Masterfile Complete.

Google Scholar Tutorial - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXMGQgO_KiQ

JSTOR Tutorial  - https://guides.jstor.org/researchbasics

Literature and Humanities Sources

These databases are particularly good for research literature and humanities topics:

Newspaper Articles

  • OneSearch Limit results by "Resource Type" in right hand column. Pick "Newspaper Articles."

Databases through New York Public Library (with Library Card)

  • Apply for a NYPL Library Card
  • Databases to Start Your Research (at NYPL with Library Card)
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Study Right

Online Study Skills Training

6 Tips to Finding Research Paper Sources that Set You Apart

Research paper sources can be difficult to find – especially if you want the good ones.

And we want good ones. One of the exercises we often have our students in our online study skills courses do ( you can find info on them here ) is to think about your teacher having to read all of those papers. If you are a high school English teacher and you’ve assigned 120+ students to write a 10 page research paper, how many do you have to read?

And – knowing how high school students often write – think about how much fun that will be. Sure, some of those papers will be interesting. But there will be some stale ones, too.

Don’t be the student who turns in the stale research paper. It’s a sure way to miss the success level you desire. Instead, find some creative ways to make your research paper interesting. Research papers can be fascinating and enjoyable, especially when you dig up unique and noteworthy research paper sources.

Here are six quick tips that will help you do fast, effective research, and find great research paper sources that will set you apart from your classmates.

1. Start with Wikipedia

A few years ago, this would have been heresy. I’m aware of that.

But I’m not suggesting you should quote the Wikipedia article. We realize that there may still be some negative realities that come with a site that anyone can edit. Sure, occasionally some goof will get some weird information published on Wikipedia.

Wikipedia, though, is more accurate than any other encyclopedia.

As hard as that may be to believe, it’s been tested and found true.

But that’s not even why we’re going to Wikipedia. We go only for two real reasons: first, it’s a nice overview of whatever topic you’re trying to research (let’s say you’re studying  learning styles ). The Wikipedia article will give you most of the big ideas associated with the topic, as well as link out to other ideas that may be similar. Starting here helps you get your bearings in the subject. After all, you’re stepping into a conversation that has been going on for years and years.

Second – and most importantly – we’re after the citations and sources at the bottom . Wikipedia frequently cites the most important research paper sources for you. It just makes sense to start here. (In our example article – learning styles – there are nearly 50 sources cited)

2.  Go to the library (a great place for research paper sources)

After you’ve dug through your Wikipedia article, the next step is an easy one – go to the library. Unless you’re studying something that has recently come into existence (like trying to find research paper sources about Facebook), your local or school library will be your best resource.

Go there, and armed with your Wikipedia knowledge, start searching for the best sources. We’re not just after any sources, though. We’re after only the best research paper sources. This will require a little bit of effort, but you can find some success without too much effort if you know what type of research paper sources you need to find.

esearch Paper Sources

3. Find the top few secondary resources cited in the article

Depending on the size of your paper, you’ll use a different number of sources. But the goal is to use the most authoritative sources possible.

If you want to know about teeth, for example, who would you consult – a dentist or a hockey player? The dentist, because he has more experience with teeth, has studied teeth, and he probably has all of his.

But if you’re trying to get some information on the best ice skates to buy, who would you consult – the dentist or the hockey player? Again, you consult the one with the most authority on the particular subject – in this case, the hockey player.

So how can you decide which sources are most authoritative? Try to find the sources that have been cited by the most other sources. This takes a bit of research before you’re able to find these, but as you read several sources, you should start to see a pattern of references. Follow that pattern.

Another place to check is Google Scholar . This service will tell you how many times your different research paper sources have been cited. Use those sources with the most citations.

4. Follow the trail of citations to primary sources

After you’ve found a few good resources that help explain your topic, get to the sources behind those research paper sources.

This is an area you have a real opportunity to set your paper apart from your classmates.

Generally speaking, the closer a resource is to the topic you’re studying, the better.

If you are studying Abraham Lincoln, try to find some letters he himself wrote. Maybe you could find an original newspaper clipping of interviews with the people closest to him. Journal entries are great finds, too.

If you are studying something more recent, sometimes you can find video or audio interviews with major players in your topic. If you’re studying someone who is still alive, maybe you could interview him or her yourself.

Can you imagine how unique your research paper sources would look if you had a personal interview with a high-ranking government official, or a family member close to someone you’re writing about? Get creative here. The more unique your sources and the more creative you are in getting them, the more unique your paper will be.

Make some phone calls, dig through some microfilm (ask your librarian if you don’t know what that is), and search out the most interesting and unique sources you can for your paper.

5. Mix up your research paper source type

Don’t just stick to the normal sources – a book and a few journal articles. These are great resources, but finding truly interesting, unique, and noteworthy research paper sources requires you to go beyond those traditional sources.

They are great places to start. But don’t stop there.  Think about some of these other source types for ideas:

  • Newspaper articles
  • Private journal or diary entries
  • Edited collections of essays
  • Scholarly journals
  • Sound recordings
  • Film, TV, or video recordings
  • Google books
  • Personal interviews

6. Get at least one source per page of your research paper

This sort of a good, general standard that will probably last you through high school and college. Different institutions have different standards, but this is a good starting place. Make sure to check your assignment requirements before you stop researching, though!

I once helped a student gather a number of research paper sources for her final project as a high school student. She got bored, though. So she quit. And she got a terrible grade. That’s what you should expect, too, if you don’t get enough resources.

If you get enough research paper resources while following these tips to make them interesting and unique, and I’m confident your research paper will stand out from your classmates.

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Skylar Anderson

Skylar passionate about equipping students to succeed & fulfill their personal missions. He lives in Denver, Colorado, and you'll find him making chili or enjoying the mountains with his family on the weekends. Twitter: @skylaranderson

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where to find research paper sources

Microsoft 365 Life Hacks > Writing > How to find credible sources for a research paper

How to find credible sources for a research paper

To write a strong research essay, you’ll need to find credible sources. With millions of websites loaded with information out there, it can be difficult to find the factual ones. Learn how to identify a credible source from an untrustworthy one.

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Tips for finding credible sources

Finding credible sources is a valuable skill. Since research papers discuss information in-depth, you must use accurate sources in your paper. Here’s how.

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Use the CRAAP Test

Run your sources through the CRAAP Test to verify their credibility. CRAAP stands for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose. Follow this breakdown to determine if you can trust the source you found.

  • Currency: Check when the source published the information and if ever updated the content. For example, if you find a source published in 2000, the information may no longer be accurate. Sources published in the last 10 years are acceptable for research papers on the arts, humanities, literature, or history—but if you’re writing in the science, finance, education, and social science fields, look for sources published in the past two to three years. This is because science-related fields are fast-paced and are quickly changing.
  • Relevance: Make sure the source is relevant to your research essay. Does the source back up your essay points? Or is it off topic? Additionally, consider the source’s intended audience: does your source convey information at an appropriate level? If your source is too advanced, it may be difficult to understand, or if it is written too simply, it may come across as condescending or patronizing.
  • Authority: Examine the source of the information, especially its authors, publishers, or sponsors. Do the authors have relevant credentials? What are their professional affiliations? Ensure the source’s author is qualified to write about a topic—otherwise, the information may not be accurate. Another aspect you should consider is the source’s URL. Domains ending with .edu (educational institutions) and .gov (government agencies) are considered reliable. Domains ending with .org (non-profit organizations) are not always reliable, so you may want to double-check any information you find from a .org URL.
  • Accuracy: Make sure the information has been supported by evidence and peer reviewed. Pro tip: See if your source information can be verified by a separate source as well. Additionally, look for sources with unbiased language free of spelling and grammar errors.
  • Purpose: Consider why the information exists. Was it created to promote an agenda or serve as propaganda? If so, it likely isn’t a reliable source. Does the information have religious, cultural, political, or ideological biases? If any of these biases are present in the source, it may not be credible.

Use academic research databases

Instead of using your search engine to find relevant sources, try sticking to searching within research databases instead. Research databases provide tons of academic resources you can use to find reliable information. Consider these research databases to find credible sources:

  • JSTOR : multidisciplinary academic journals, books, primary sources, and images
  • Scopus : peer-reviewed scientific journals and books
  • PubMed : literature on biomedical or life sciences
  • Directory of Open Access Journals : peer-reviewed scholarly research journals

Signs that a source isn’t credible

Untrustworthy sources have clear warning signs. Look for the following if you think a source isn’t credible:

  • The information is one-sided.
  • The author doesn’t share how or where they got their information.
  • The information has multiple spelling and/or grammatical errors .
  • The piece lacks detail.
  • The author states their opinion, through phrases like “I think” or “I feel.”
  • The information needed to cite the source is missing (for example, the author’s name or the date it was published).
  • You’re unable to verify the information with a separate source.

Finding accurate and credible information is essential for a quality research paper. Now that you know how to find credible sources, learn how to avoid plagiarism in your research paper .

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Finding Sources

Gathering information for essays which require research: background, finding sources--explanation, primary & secondary sources, on-line(card) catalog, magazines & journals, indexes & abstracts, newspaper indexes, reference books, library of congress subject heading index, internet resources, knowledgeable people, interlibrary loan, reference librarian.

  • Exercise 6: Primary & Secondary Sources
  • Exercise 7: Sample Searches

Gathering sources is much more complex than it used to be. For starters, there are more resources available. Secondly, information can be gathered in a number of places. Your primary places for locating sources will be:

The library

  • Other computer sources (CD-Roms, etc.)
  • The internet/world wide web

This section provides an overview of important concepts and techniques in gathering information for research essays. You should read this section before going to more specific information on types of sources, documentation, etc. and before trying the sample exercises.

Find the computer labeled for searching the library's collection of books and other materials or the card catalog.  Most libraries have separate computers set aside specifically for searching the library's collections which do not require a reservation and are not time-limited as the open Internet computers usually are.  If you plan to use a computer for searching for Internet sources, make sure to respect the library's reservation system if there is one. 

The card catalog computer in the library usually will have instructions attached to it. Most library systems allow you to search by title, author, or subject headings, and most are cross-referenced. Filtering by books available in that specific location may be helpful also if you are limited in time and cannot wait for a book to be transferred from one library to another (interlibrary loan).  If you know which books you want, or know a specific author who has written books about the field that you are researching, then go ahead and use the title or author categories in the computer. You also may find it very helpful to use the subject heading category, which will offer you more options for the books that might be useful to you in doing your research.  Librarians are usually more than willing to assist with the search or in finding the sources once you have written down the call numbers of the books in which you are interested.

The subject heading category allows you to put in key words that might lead to books in your interest area. Don't limit yourself, though, by putting in words that are too narrow or too broad. If your search words are too narrow, you will not find many sources; on the other hand if they are too broad, you will not find the search useful either.

Key words are words that relate to your topic but are not necessarily in your thesis statement (note that it will be most helpful if you have a clear idea about your topic before you begin this type of research, although research can also help to narrow your thesis). For example, if you are searching for information about women in the Civil War, it would be too broad to enter just "women" and "war." You would find too many sources this way. It might also be too narrow to enter the name of a specific woman--you probably need more historical context. Try key phrases such as "women and Civil War" or "girls and Civil War." You want to find as many books that might be helpful on the subject that you are searching, without providing yourself with so much information that you lose sight of your original topic.

You will also discover that there is another great way to find books that might be helpful to you. As you find books on your topic listed in the computer, you can then track those books down on the shelf. After a few minutes of searching on the computer, you will start to see that certain books have call numbers (the number on the book's spine that tells its location in the library) that are similar. After you finish your work on the computer, ask a reference librarian, or follow the signs on the walls to locate the call numbers that correspond with your books. When you get to the section where your book is located, don't just look at that book. Look around, too. Sometimes you will find great resources that you were unaware of just by looking on the shelf. Because libraries are generally organized by topic, you can often find some real "gems" this way. Also check the index in the front or the back of the book (the one in the back is always more detailed, but not all books have one) to be sure that the information you are looking for is in the book. A book can have a great title, but no information. On the other hand, a book that doesn't seem to go along with what you are doing can turn out to have a lot of usable information.

Books are generally a great resource--they often contain a lot of information gathered into one place, and they can give you a more thorough investigation of your topic. As you are reading a book, journal article, or newspaper article, you should keep the following questions in mind, which will help you understand how useful the book will be to you.

  • Is the book or article biased in a particular way? For instance, is the book or article written by a person who is a member of a particular religious group, or a particular environmental group, for example, which would "color" their interpretation?
  • Does the author agree or disagree with my thesis?
  • Is the information presented accurately, to the best of your knowledge? Is the author him/herself using valid sources?


Magazines (including Time or Newsweek) are called periodicals as they are published periodically (weekly, monthly, etc.). Most libraries only keep the most current issues of these magazines on the shelf. The rest are bound together in collections, usually by year. These are usually kept in a separate room (in the basement, to my experience!) where you can go and look at them. Usually, the location is a place called "the stacks," which is where you go to look for periodicals that are older than the current issue. Remember that you can't take these out of the library. If you find articles that you want to take home, you need to photocopy them. Newspaper articles are sometimes in the bound periodicals, but are more often found on microfiche or microfilm.

Make sure to distinguish between general interest magazines and professional journals; this is an important distinction in college-level research.

Microfiche or microfilm is a device which can be extremely frustrating. Don't hesitate to ask for help from your nearby reference person. Microfiche or microfilm comes in two forms--small cards of information (fiche), or long film-type strips of information (film). Once you insert these into the microfiche or microfilm machine (and there are separate machines for each), you will be able to see the text of the article that you are looking for. Often, you will have to scan through quite a bit of film to find what you are looking for. Microfiche and microfilm are kept in boxes, and sometimes you have to request the date that you are looking for. Don't give up! With persistence, you can find some wonderful resources on microfiche and microfilm.

Other computer resources (CDROM, specialized databases etc)

Many libraries today, especially if they are larger libraries, have information available on CDROM or through what are called specialized databases. Be sure to tell a reference librarian what you are working on, and ask her advice on whether or not there is information available on CDROM or through a specialized database.

CDROM's often are put out by groups such as History Societies (there is an entire set on the Civil War, for example). Government documents are currently available on CDROM and often offer updated information (census data, for example). The reference librarian can tell you which CDs might be the most helpful and can help you sign them out and use them.

There are many specialized databases. Some examples are ERIC, the educational database, and Silver Platter, which offers texts of recent articles in particular subjects (yep, the whole article is available right through the computer, which is often less time-consuming than looking through the stacks for it) The American Psychological Association has the titles of articles on specific subjects (psychology, sociology, etc). Sociofile is another example. Ask your reference librarian to see exactly what is available. One good thing about specialized databases is that you already know the source and orientation of the article. You also know that the source is a valid and reputable one. You will need the reference librarian's help getting into specialized databases--most libraries require that the databases have passwords. Warning: Bring your own paper if you plan on doing this type of research! Many libraries allow you to print from the databases, but you must supply your own paper.

Internet/Web Research

Internet research is another popular option these days. You can research from home if you have internet search capabilities, or you usually can research from the library. Most libraries have internet connections on at least a few computers, although sometimes you need to sign up for them in advance. Even if there doesn't seem to be much of a crowd around, be sure to sign up on the sheet so that you don't have someone come along and try to take your spot.

Internet research can be very rewarding, but it also has its drawbacks. Many libraries have set their computers on a particular search engine, or a service that will conduct the research for you. If you don't find what you are looking for by using one search engine, switch to another (Google, Yahoo, etc... are all good choices).

Internet research can be time consuming. You will need to search much the way you would on the library database computers--simply type in key words or authors or titles, and see what the computer comes up with. Then you will have to read through the list of choices that you are given and see if any of them match what you think you are looking for.

WARNING ABOUT INTERNET RESEARCH: There are a lot of resources on the internet that are not going to be valuable to you. Part of your internet research will include evaluating the resources that you find. Personal web pages are NOT a good source to go by--they often have incorrect information on them and can be very misleading. Be sure that your internet information is from a recognized source such as the government, an agency that you are sure is a credible source (the Greenpeace web page, for example, or the web page for the National Institute of Health), or a credible news source (CBS, NBC, and ABC all have web pages). A rule of thumb when doing internet research: if you aren't sure whether or not the source is credible, DON'T USE IT!! One good source to help you determine the credibility of online information is available from UCLA: Thinking Critically about World Wide Web Resources. Check out the Content and Evaluation and Sources and Data sections. (Click  here for that source.)

Taking notes, paraphrasing, and quoting

Taking notes is an important part of doing research. Be sure when you take notes that you write down the source that they are from! One way of keeping track is to make yourself a "master list"--a number list of all of the sources that you have. Then, as you are writing down notes, you can just write down the number of that source. A good place to write notes down is on note cards. This way you can take the note cards and organize them later according to the way you want to organize your paper.

While taking notes, also be sure to write down the page number of the information. You will need this later on when you are writing your paper.

  • What do I take notes on? Good question. You should take notes on ideas and concepts that you think are important to include in your paper. You also can include supporting examples that you think would be helpful to refer to. You should NOT write the words down exactly as they appear on the page, unless you are putting them in quotations. Otherwise, you might accidentally write them into your paper that way, and that would be plagiarism. Be sure to write down the page number that you are working from in case you want to refer back to it. Click  here to learn more about Taking Notes.
  • Using quotes, or What if I want the exact words? If you come across a passage in your reading and it seems to you that the author's language is more accurate, more touching, or more informative than you could create, then you should write that sentence down exactly as you see it, with quotation marks around the sentence(s). You must be very careful to record the page number that this information is from, because you will need to include it in your paper. Quotes should not be used terribly often--if your paper is nothing more than a series of quotes strung together (and yes, we have all written those!) then you need to go back and include more of your own information. Click  here to see an example and to work more with using quotations.
  • What about summarizing and paraphrasing? Summarizing and paraphrasing are similar to quoting in that you are recording the author's ideas. However, when you are summarize or paraphrase, you record ideas as opposed to exact language; the language is yours. Once again, be sure to jot down the page number--you will need it later. Any time you summarize or paraphrase, you MUST acknowledge the source of your information. Not only is it a professional requirement, it is a way to avoid plagiarism. To see an example, read more specific information, and work with exercises, check out Summaries and Paraphrases .


Any time that you use information that is not what is considered "common knowledge" (rule of thumb--knowledge included in three or more sources), you must acknowledge your source. For example, when you paraphrase or quote, you need to indicate to your reader that you got the information from somewhere else. This scholarly practice allows your reader to follow up that source to get more information. You must create what is called a citation in order to acknowledge someone else's ideas. You use parentheses () in your text, and inside the parentheses you put the author's name and the page number (there are several different ways of doing this. You should look at your course guide carefully to determine which format you should be using). Two standard formats, MLA and APA, stand for the Modern Language Association, and the American Psychological Association. Check out more specific information on how to document sources .

Using sources to support your ideas is one characteristic of the research paper that sets it apart from personal and creative writing. Sources come in many forms such as magazine and journal articles, books, newspapers, videos, films, computer discussion groups, surveys, or interviews. The trick is to find and then match appropriate, valid sources to your own ideas.

But where do you go to obtain these sources? For college research papers, you will need to use sources available in academic libraries (college or university libraries as opposed to public libraries). Here you will find journals and other texts that go into more depth in a discipline and are, therefore, more appropriate for college research than those sources written for the general public.

Some, though not all, of these sources are now in electronic format, and may be accessible outside of the library using a computer. The SUNY Empire State University web site includes a useful list of online learning resources .

Primary sources are original, first-hand documents such as creative works, research studies, diaries, and letters, or interviews you conduct.

Secondary sources are comments about primary sources such as analyses of creative work or original research, or historical interpretations of diaries and letters.

You can use a combination of primary and secondary sources to answer your research question, depending on the question and the type of sources it requires.

If you're writing a paper on the reasons for a certain personality disorder, you may read an account written by a person with that personality disorder, a case study by a psychiatrist, and a textbook that summarizes a number of case studies. The first-hand account and the psychiatrist's case study are primary sources, written by people who have directly experienced or observed the situation themselves. The textbook is a secondary source, one step removed from the original experience or observation.

For example, if you asked what the sea symbolized in Hemingway's story "The Old Man and the Sea," you'd need to consult the story as a primary source and critics' interpretations of the story as a secondary source.

Again, find the computer labeled for searching the library's collection of books and other materials or the card catalog.  Most libraries have separate computers set aside specifically for searching the library's collections which do not require a reservation and are not time-limited as the open Internet computers usually are.  If you plan to use a computer for searching for Internet sources, make sure to respect the library's reservation system if there is one.  Look up sources by author, title, or subject.  Most of the searches that you do for a research paper will be subject searches, unless you already know enough about the field to know some standard sources by author or title.

When using an on-line catalog or a card catalog, make sure to jot down the source's name, title, place of publication, publication date, and any other relevant bibliographic information that you will need later on if you choose to use the source in your research paper. Also remember to record the call number, which is the number you use to find the item in the library.

Magazines are written for the general public, so they contain articles that do not present a subject in depth.

Journals are written by and for professionals in various fields and will provide you with in-depth, specific information.

Your professors will expect you to use some journals; in fact, the more advanced your courses are, the more you should be using journal articles in your research (as opposed to magazine articles).

How do you find articles to answer your research question?  It's inefficient to go through volumes of magazines and journals, even if you could think of appropriate ones. Most magazine and journal articles are referenced in either an index or an abstract.

An index lists magazine or journal articles by subject. Find the correct subject heading or keyword to search for articles. Write down all the information for each article. Check the index's abbreviation key if you can't understand the abbreviations in the entry. Make sure to write down all of the entry's information so you can find the article IF your library carries the magazine or journal. If not, you can use the information to request the article through interlibrary loan.

Specific indices (the "correct" plural of index) exist for journals in just about every field of study (Business Index, Social Science Index, General Science Index, Education Index, and many more), while there's only one major index to general interest magazines (The Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature). Many libraries have many of these indices on their on-line systems; check with the reference librarian if you have a question about indices available on-line.

An abstract is like an index with a brief description of the article's content added. You'll soon see that it's great to be researching in a field that has an abstract, since this short explanation can help you make an early decision about the relevance of the article to your research question or working thesis.

A bound, printed abstract takes two steps to use. The first step is the same--find the appropriate subject heading in the index portion and write down all of the information in the entry. Note that the entry will also include a number or some kind of an identifying code. Then use the number or code in the "abstracts" portion to find a description of the type of information that's in the article.

Many libraries have abstracts in CD-ROM form. Because indexes will be accessed in different ways and because the technology is changing so rapidly, follow the on-screen instructions and/or ask the reference librarian.

Again, if an article seems appropriate, write down all of the entry information so you can find the article in your library or through interlibrary loan and so you'll have the information for your works cited or references list at the end of your paper.

The most commonly used index to newspaper articles is the New York Times Index, organized alphabetically by subject. Find the appropriate subject heading and jot down the information so you can find the article, which is usually on microfilm, unless you're dealing with a very recent issue of the Times. Your local newspaper also may publish an index, which may be useful if you are researching local history or politics.

There are many general reference books that may be useful to your research in a variety of ways.

  • General Encyclopedias (Britannica, Americana, etc.)
  • Specialized Encyclopedias (e.g., music or medical terms)
  • Facts on File, Statistical Abstracts
  • Other reference books

Encyclopedias provide background information about a subject. Note that you should confine your use of encyclopedias to background information only, since their information is too general to function as an appropriate source for a college paper.

Specialized encyclopedias and dictionaries provide background in specific fields (e.g., a dictionary of music terms, a biographical encyclopedia of American authors, explanations of legal terms).

Facts on File and Statistical Abstracts provide brief bits of statistical information that can aid your research. For example, if you're doing on a paper on airline safety since deregulation, it's a safe bet that you can find statistics on airline safety problems in one of these reference books.

Other reference books abound (e.g., Book Review Digest, medical, and legal dictionaries). Take time, at some point, to browse your library's shelves in the reference section to see how many different types of reference books exist and to consider how you may use them. It will be time well-spent.  Remember to write down all of the information that you need from these sources as they are almost always not allowed to be used outside of the library.

The Library of Congress provides an indexing system; most academic libraries index their books using Library of Congress subject headings. The Library of Congress publishes a Subject Heading Index listing all of the subject headings that they use.

Why bother knowing this information? The Subject Heading Index is a good tool for you as a researcher. If you're not getting exactly the right books you need through your on-line subject search, check this index to find the appropriate subject heading to use.

If you are finding too much information, check this index to see at a glance all of the various headings and sub-headings for the subject. You can get an idea of how to narrow down and focus your subject simply by scanning these various headings and sub-headings.

Just note that these subject headings relate to books only. Magazine and journal indexes and abstracts will use their own subject headings (but the Library of Congress headings can at least give you an idea of the types of headings to use).

The important thing to remember here is that, by the time a book is printed, the information is at least a couple of years old. So if you're doing research that requires very recent information, a newspaper, magazine, or journal is your best bet.

If the age of the information is not an issue (and it's not, in many cases), then a book's fuller treatment of a subject is a good choice.

It's also useful to move from virtual cyberspace into actual, physical space and "real time" when you search for books. That means that you should get yourself into the library. Sometimes a look through the stacks (the shelves on which the books are located) will turn up additional information that's relevant to your research question or working thesis.

The Internet provides access to a lot of information. The SUNY Empire State University Online Library provides access to a number of useful databases on a wide variety of topics. The Internet provides access to many on-line catalogs so you can review the types of books available in the field (and carried by that particular library).

The Internet also provides access to a few full-text electronic journals (which means that you can read and print the article right from the screen). Government information (e.g., policy statements, laws, treaties) are also widely available in full-text format.

You can even find other writing resources .

The Internet can link you up with individuals who might have expertise on the topic you are researching. You can find these people by joining electronic discussion groups (newsgroups) or maillists. These forums are usually categorized by topic (e.g., a maillist on ECOLOGY). By posting a question to the group or maillist, you can obtain useful information from knowledgeable people willing to share their expertise.

The one big problem with the Internet is that you sometimes need to sift . . . and sift . . . and sift through it to find exactly what you want. You also have to be critical of what you find, since anyone can post and even change anything that's out there in cyberspace, and you won't necessarily know if someone answering your query is really an expert in the field. But if you persevere, and even if you just play around with it, the Internet can offer some gems of information in a quick, easy way.

Don't underestimate the power of interviewing knowledgeable people as part of your research. For example, if you're researching a topic in local history, consult the town historian or a local resident who experienced what you're researching. People who have "been there" and "done that" can add a real richness to your research. (For example, who better than a former Olympic athlete to provide information about the emotional effects of athletic competition?)

You can consult knowledgeable people in print as well. If you find one or two names that keep popping up in your research (if others consistently refer to these names and list works by these people in their bibliographies), then you should consult sources by these people, since it's likely that they are considered experts in the field which you are researching.

If your library doesn't carry the book or journal article that you need, you probably can get that source through interlibrary loan. Interlibrary loan is available to all SUNY Empire faculty, staff, and students, and it supplies electronically delivered book chapters and journal articles but no physical media.

One big tip for using interlibrary loan: you will need full and specific information to order the material. So get in the habit of writing all of the information down as you compile your list of sources. For books, write down the author, title, publisher, place, and date of publication. For articles, write down the article title, journal title, author, volume, date, span of page numbers, and the name, year, and page number of the reference source in which you found the article listed. The library needs this information to order your source. More information can be found here Interlibrary Loan FAQs .  If you are using the computer in a public library, many times the request for interlibrary loan is a link directly from the page on which the material you wish to use is listed.  Be sure to keep your library card up-to-date and handy!

Don't be afraid to approach this person, who really is there to help you.

One big tip for working with a reference librarian: you'll get more help the more specific you are. The librarian will immediately be able to suggest a number of places to look if you tell him that your research question is "Why was smoking banned in public places?," or if you tell her that your thesis is "Smoking should be banned in the workplace because of health, safety, and economic reasons." On the other hand, if you tell the librarian that you're researching "smoking," you won't get as much direct help because the topic is so vast.

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If you would like assistance with any type of writing assignment, learning coaches are available to assist you. Please contact Academic Support by emailing [email protected].

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The Ultimate Student Guide To Finding Credible Sources


When it comes to writing a research paper, it’s crucial that you use credible sources to make sure that the information you are stating is actually true. Knowing the difference between credible sources and unreliable sources doesn’t always come so easily with endless information flooding the internet. Thankfully, there are some simple tips that you can use to ensure that you are always using credible sources for research.

What is a Research Paper?

A research paper is a piece of academic writing that uses original research on a specific topic. There are many different types of research papers, ranging from a high school term paper to a master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation.

Books and a pair of glasses that belong to a student

Photo by  Wallace Chuck  from  Pexels

How to start a search for sources, 1. start simple.

If you’re wondering how to find sources for a research paper, the easiest and best way to start is simple! Just try browsing through some common search engines to see what you find.

2. Cross Wikipedia off

Wikipedia, although it’s a massive pool of information, should always be avoided when writing a research paper since it allows the public to edit information. Sites such as these often run the risk of lacking accuracy, and is not one of the most credible sources for research.

3. Yes to scholarly databases

Scholarly databases are your best friend when it comes to finding credible sources for research. Online scholarly databases that can be trusted and are known to provide useful information for students include LexisNexis and EBSCO.

4. Newspapers and magazines

Although sometimes biased, newspapers and magazines can also be a great place to find information about current events.

5. The library

While the library seems to be the most obvious place to find information, somehow it’s often forgotten when it comes to research in the modern age. Don’t forget how useful it can truly be!

Types of Credible Sources for Research

1. what are some credible websites.

Many online sources do not necessarily contain information that is correct or has been checked. That’s why it’s of utmost importance to make sure that you’re using the right websites for your research, with government and educational websites generally being the most reliable.

Credible sources for research include: science.gov, The World Factbook, US Census Bureau, UK Statistics, and Encyclopedia Britannica.

2. What are some credible journal articles?

When it comes to journal articles, determining how credible they are comes much easier than other sources. This is generally due to the fact that many of these websites will include valuable information such as how many times the article has been cited, and if its been peer reviewed.

Some great examples of reliable websites for journal articles include Google Scholar, Oxford Academic, Microsoft Academic, Cornell University Library, and SAGE Publishing.

If you are ever not sure how to find credible sources, then there’s the CRAAP test, which takes into account the Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy and Purpose of the article. Take all of these factors into consideration before using a source and determining whether or not it’s credible enough. Even if it takes more time, you’ll be saving yourself tons of time in the long run by not using unreliable sources.

A group of college students working together to find credible sources for their research

Photo by  Canva Studio  from  Pexels

3. what are some credible news sources.

When it comes to news articles, more caution must be taken since it’s hard to know which sources are truly reliable and unbiased. The CRAAP test is also useful in this type of article for research.

A few examples of credible news sources include The New York Times, Bloomberg, and The Washington Post.

The Credibility of a Source

As you search for your research information, you will surely come across the question of how to find credible sources for a research paper. Here are some criteria to focus on to ensure that you only use the most credible of sources.

1. What’s the depth of it?

Always look at the depth of an article, not just the written content. See how long the article is, and if it contains the necessary information such as an abstract, a reference list, and documented data.

2. Who is reading it?

When judging the credibility of an article, it’s important to always ask yourself who the target audience of the article is. Sometimes, sources have a specific goal in mind and it can create certain biases.

3. What’s the goal?

Just as you should do with the audience, also ask yourself what the article is trying to achieve. What is their ultimate goal and how are they persuading you of that?

4. Who wrote it?

Always ask yourself who wrote the article and how reputable they are in the specific field. Look at what other published works they have as well.

5. Can it be trusted?

Overall, it’s key to ask yourself how reputable the source is. What kind of website is it published on? Look at the big picture.

6. Is it relevant to now?

Look at the date of the article, or about the specific things they are mentioning in the article. If it’s from a few years ago, it’s probably not too relevant to your current research.

7. Can it be proven?

While an article may sound incredibly convincing, many people have a way with words and persuasion. Stop and ask yourself whether or not what they are claiming can actually be proven.

A master’s student questioning the credibility of the sources she’s found

Photo by  bruce mars  from  Pexels

How to evaluate source credibility.

By using unreliable sources in your research, it can discredit your status, which is why it’s incredibly important to make sure that any information you are using is up-to-date and accurate.

Here’s how to find credible sources.

1. What is a credible source?

Generally, materials that have been published within the past 10 years are considered to be credible sources for research. Another important factor to consider is the author — if they are well known and respected in their specific fields, that’s also generally a sign that the article is credible. Educational and government-run websites (.gov, .edu) tend to also be a safe source to use, as well as academic databases. Google Scholar is also a no-fail source for reliable information.

2. What is a potentially unreliable source?

Anything that is out of date, meaning it’s been published more than 10 years ago should be avoided. Materials published on social media platforms such as Facebook or personal blogs don’t tend to be the most credible. Always make sure that an article contains proper citations and that the website you are using ends in .com or .org.

Free Resources For Learning

There are many free resources for research available known as open educational resources . They are licensed for free use, with the intention of teaching. They can be determined as credible sources for research if they have a Creative Common license, and if the author has proven to be an expert in their field. Always make sure that the content you are using contains no biases.

Sites For Scholarly Research

When performing scholarly research, it’s extra important to make sure that your sources are credible. Government-run research is considered credible, but beware of any political sites. University and educational websites also tend to be reliable, but still take everything you read with a grain of salt. Company websites also tend to be reliable, although their ultimate goal is usually to promote a product. Organizations which are .org websites can be professional and reliable, however, sometimes they also have their own interests.

Which Sites Can Be Relied On

The internet has no shortage of information out there. That’s why you’ll need these handy tips to determine which to use, and how to distinguish through the vast choices without feeling overwhelmed.

List of Credible Research Sources to Consider

1. government entities.

These websites tend to be reliable since they are highly regulated. Examples include the CIA World Factbook and the United States Justice Statistics.

2. Research Think Tanks

Examples of reliable research think tanks include Rand Corporation, Pew Research Center and The Milken Institute.

3. Academic Libraries and Databases

ProQuest, Scopus, and Jstor are great examples of academic libraries and databases that can be trusted.

4. Professional Standards Organizations

The American Bar Association and The American Psychological Association (APA) are highly credible sources when it comes to professional standards.

How to Write a Research Paper: Step-by-Step

Now that you’re an expert on finding credible sources for research, you’re ready to go! But how do you even start to write a research paper? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

For starters, it’s important to get clear instructions from your professor on what they want. The next step is to start brainstorming ideas for a topic of research. Once you’ve decided and feel confident about it, you’re ready to create your outline and plan out the goal of your research paper.

Befriend your librarian and start to search for quality and credible sources through a variety of means. Make sure you understand your topic from top to bottom before you start writing.  As you write, be sure to always keep things factual, and that you finalize your thesis statement throughout your paper — not just at the end. That’s what’s going to guide your writing. Be sure to always keep format in mind, never forget to cite your sources, and to never skip those edits and final checks.

Now you are ready to write a high-quality, fact-driven research paper that’s sure to impress your professors.

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Where to Find Credible Sources for Your Research Paper

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Finding Credible Sources Online

where to find research paper sources

The dreaded research paper can leave many wondering where to go for information. With the Internet being so accessible, it might be tempting to type words into Google and use whatever comes up first. You may get lucky and get great sources, or you may get stuck with less credible sites that leave your professor wondering where you got such information. Learning how to evaluate sources for research paper writing is a key component to your research paper’s success. Here are five tips to help you as you gather your sources:

  • Start with a simple search.  Search engines, such as  Google  or  Yahoo! , are great places to start when you’re first reading up on the assigned writing topic.
  • Avoid  Wikipedia .  Print and digital encyclopedias, such as  Encyclopedia Britannica  and  InfoPlease.com , are excellent sources from which to gather material. But be careful of sites such as Wikipedia that allow multiple users to edit. Wikipedia is a great jumping-off point in terms of figuring out what to search for, but double-check all of the facts by using credible sources of information.
  • Use online scholarly databases  such as  InfoTrac ,  LexisNexis , and  EBSCO , which provide access to the latest research in hundreds of areas.
  • Newspapers and magazines  are also rich sources of information about what is happening now. Consider browsing through the  New York Times ,  TIME , and the  Wall Street Journal .
  • Don ’ t forget the library.  Often this rich source of information is overlooked because students think it’s more convenient to look subjects up online. The problem with that is you miss out on accidentally stumbling upon a book or magazine that might just be the perfect source for your research paper.
  • NEXT: Finding Credible Sources Online Part 2 

63 thoughts on “ Where to Find Credible Sources for Your Research Paper ”

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For those teachers who try to resist the internet as a legitimate way to do research, they need to step into the 21st century. The internet has enabled students to do way more research than ever in way less time. Of course, this comes at a price of having to navigate through less-than-credible websites for something one could actually use. Some of the best tools for this can be found at credibleresearchsources.com and easybib.com, but still one must be able to identify these for themselves and use good judgement. The ways students do research should evolve quite a bit over the next few years.

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How To Find Credible Sources for Research to Make Your Paper Trustworthy

28 Feb 2022

Quick Navigation

📑Types of Credible Sources for Research

  • Primary resources
  • Secondary resources
  • Tertiary resources

✏️How To Start A Search For Sources

📗The Credibility of a Source

🎓Free Resources For Learning

✍Sites For Scholarly Research

🔍Credible Research Sources to Consider

📝List of Credible Research Sources

❌Sources To Avoid When Conducting Research

📍Tips to Finding Research Paper Sources

Writing research papers requires patience and a lot of in-depth analysis of the materials chosen to find reliable sources. This type of essay is prevalent in all college and school classes. Thus, it helps students showcase their basic skills, such as critical thinking, cohesive writing, and reading comprehension.

Although this project is widespread, only some know how to write a research paper and find credible sources. Therefore, the article below can be of great help. Thus, it includes detailed information about writing papers and everything for student or writer who needs to know about finding credible sources. Furthermore, the type of sources for research in several fields, such as periodicals.

Lastly, here are some essential tips to prove the credibility of a source and how to begin a source-finding process for an award-winning academic paper. The following information can be used as an excellent guide for those needing a beacon for creating quality writing materials worthy of academic achievement. Papers Owl is an excellent website for finding credible sources for academic papers, offering reliable and authoritative information from a variety of sources. Additionally, Papers Owl provides helpful tips, instructions, and resources to make sure you are able to write a highly-acclaimed academic paper.

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Types of Sources Used in Research Papers

Finding credible sources for research is essential, but what makes a source credible? You can find credible research sources on government pages, scientific journals or references, and credible websites. This sets the tone for explaining each type of source for research: a website, an article, references, and credible news.

Primary Resources

Finding credible research paper resources must be carefully provided and fact-checked to ensure the resources can be used on the paper, primarily if the appropriate data type is indicated on a website. Online pages nowadays can be edited by almost anyone and published anonymously without any form of credibility. Therefore, the best credible sources for academic research must come from government references or educational websites. The most trustworthy are the WHO, NHS, US Census Bureau, and UK Statistics.

Secondary Resources

When it comes to the second type of resource for research papers, articles are great for obtaining details and deep analysis of materials. In addition, selecting a credible article from the online library is unbiased and accessible more than other types of sources due to the large quantity of information displayed on the first page (such as the author’s name and education, the year published, if it was peer-reviewed, etc.). Some familiar and great academic resources are Google Scholar, Public Library of Science, Oxford Academic, and BioMed Central. In another way, you can use an online writing service.

Pro tip: if you doubt the credibility of a source, try using the CRAAP test, which states for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose. Analyze the information taking these detail into account, to determine whether the source can be used or disposed of.

Tertiary Resources

Lastly, the news is the last credible source for research papers on the list, which require much precaution and time to find credible sources for research papers and determine if this information type should be taken into account. To find good sources for research that include current-event situations, ensure to acquire information from online papers.

Suppose you’re struggling with adding checked resources to your paper, and you constantly search for references or the article “how to find sources for a research paper.” In that case, a good thing to implement is the CRAAP test mentioned above.

How to Start a Search for Sources

Students wondering how to find unbiased and credible sources for research papers can use the following paragraph as a great guide. Good research sources are not technically hard to find sources in the library, but they require time. In the beginning stages of research, the bigger picture tends to be challenging to see. Therefore the first step to find a good source for an academic research project is to start anywhere, even online, and narrow your search once you’ve discovered a connector string.

Here’s a useful list of steps students can use to find credible sources.

  • Start somewhere. Simply searching the type of topic chosen in general will provide a good introduction and help students move forward with the investigation of materials.
  • Use only fact-checked sites. Databases like Wikipedia should be massively avoided. Thus, each article can be edited by anyone, and no facts can be proven to be true. Go for scholarly databases, well-known newspaper articles, and the science essay to find credible news.
  • Go local. Although most information can be accessed online, university libraries are still relevant and find a great source of data, so this source is highly recommended to be used.

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The Credibility of a Source

It is becoming more critical for students to find sources amid the vast number of available reputable internet articles. Unfortunately, the accessibility of the information played a bad joke on Internet Users. There is a lot of fake news, click bates, fabrications, propaganda, and manipulation. How do you not become a victim and find a reputable article in the world of the yellow press?

Credible sources are information based on evidence. It exists an easy way to check the credibility of a proven source. You just need to pass the CRAAP test :

  • Currency: Is the primary source modern?
  • Relevance: Does the source fit with what you're looking for?
  • Authority: Who wrote the origin? Where was it published?
  • Accuracy: Are the claims given in the right way?
  • Purpose: What was the point of putting this source out there?

Our top essay writers prepared helpful advice in this article. They use them daily to be sure that none of your teachers and examinators doesn't put the background in question. This advice works well as the sole mechanism of the CRAAP test.

  • Collect data for research carefully. It should be accurate and current.
  • You must ensure that the source is appropriate for your project.
  • The author and the publisher would be recognized as leading authorities in your academic investigating field.
  • The author's references should be simple to access, clear, and objective.
  • The URL and style of online sites should indicate their source's credibility.

Free Resources for Learning

Open Educational Resources are accessible, reliable research paper sources available for the population without charge for teaching and educational purposes.

To find credible sources of this kind, make sure they have a Creative Commons license, stating that the information displayed can be shared and used to help with research paper . You need to check the credentials and backgrounds to make sure they provide relevant information to be considered valid sources and look for non-biased content to keep neutral to build your opinion on it later in the paper.

Sites for Scholarly Research

Scholarly research requires some patience and analysis to find sources and check their credibility. Government pages are reputable, but experts should be careful of political ideas in the article that are more fond of one or another party, as well as educational and university sites, in which the information can be usually used for research but should be analyzed too.

Finally, company websites are another great source to use for scholarly search, but, as before, the writer should be aware of any product promotion that gets in the way of credible information.

Know how to structure your paper

  • 12-point Times New Roman
  • 0" between paragraphs
  • 1" margin all around
  • double spaced (275 words/page) / single-spaced (550 words/page)
  • 0.5" first line of a paragraph

PapersOwl editors can also format your paper according to your specific requirements.

Credible Research Sources to Consider

The following point will come in handy if you're searching for credible sources for research papers. Below, you can find a list of sources for the appropriate type of research papers that contain primary and secondary sources to create an outstanding and academic-worthy piece.

Government Entities

Professionals highly regulate the sources, so they are safe to use as primary sources. Depending on the country researched, the reputable government site will vary. However, some general examples that provide outstanding scholarly databases are the Australian Government Department of Health and the CIA World Factbook.


A newspaper article, a magazine, and a journal are three forms of periodical sources. Some might be suitable for scholarly research (an article, conference and working papers, and theses), and others fit non-academic research (magazines, newsletters, articles without bibliographic information, etc.). Examples of good periodical sources are The Journal of Psychology and the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Academic Libraries and Databases

You can search for specialized databases and academic libraries in both paid and free accessibility, and most paid information can be obtained with a university or school password. In addition, these sources are entirely reliable and always provide some sort of bibliography to cite the author’s background, credentials, and writing format. The most popular and trustworthy academic libraries and research databases to obtain information on books, studies, and other documents are Google Search, PubMed Central, and ScienceDirect. These search engines allow authors to access data content easily and fast.

Professional Standards Organizations

Professional Standards Organizations serve as excellent consultation guides for terminology and specifications in a certain country. All countries have at least one listed as an official search to help people access certified information. The most common ones used for academic research paper sources are the American National Standards Institute, the British Standards Institution, and the Standards Council of Canada.

Indexes & Abstracts

Indexes and abstracts are credible sources of information that readers can quickly find if these will suit their research or not. Abstracts provide a small summary of the entire text accessed with the clues explained. Therefore it is easy to conclude if that info can be used or not in the written composition being created. Furthermore, indexes help break down texts into brief headings that experts use as the hook sentence and acquire specific data.

Newspaper Indexes

For research studies that need past data, newspaper indexes are the best option. These are indexes composed of names, dates, subjects, illustrations, and other important details found in newspaper articles or groups of newspapers. It helps to organize similar information and data, so readers can access it quickly and obtain specific facts they are looking for.

Reference Books

Reference books provide further knowledge on a chosen topic. You can find them in the bibliography of other books and credible websites, and other credible sites that provide citations for the information displayed.

List of Credible Research Sources

It's more complicated to find credible sources for research papers. So let's begin with online resources like webpages. You may be familiar with Google Scholar or Google Books, but the world is not limited to Google. So we aim to expand the range of credible sources for research papers:

  • WorldWideScience uses 70+ country datasets. When users search, online databases from across the globe provide English and translated results from linked periodicals and academic sites.
  • BBC News is one of the most reliable news sources. They post news in text and video on their official website for your APA format of research paper. So you don't have to pay anything extra to watch it.
  • The Economist is a well-known and respected weekly magazine focusing on international business, economics, and politics. It can also be found online.
  • Refseek works like Google but prioritizes scientific and scholarly results from.edu.org and online encyclopedias.
  • National Geographic site has the latest news and films on any subject! It has a website, smartphone app, and TV network. Relevant sources and proof make confident for your paper.
  • The Wall Street Journal is an additional American-based business site powerhouse. It is published both digitally and in broadsheet print, indicating its high popularity.

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Sources to Avoid When Conducting Research

Author qualifications, publication date, and peer-review status are essential elements to consider when researching material. Unfortunately, not all websites and posts include these details, making it difficult to determine whether the content is suitable for use in a research paper. To avoid wasting time, carefully consider the sources you use when beginning a research paper. In addition, for those who lack the time or resources to complete the research, there is opt to pay for paper writing .

Social Media & Related Sites

Some professionals and organizations use social media to spread fact-checked knowledge about specific topics. Social media and related sites use the worldwide phenomenon known as “fake news” to misrepresent current and previous events.

Wikipedia was cataloged as unreliable for research papers a long time ago because of its lack of credentials and quality and the ability that anyone can edit the type of facts and information displayed. We have shared advice on how to work with Wiki to make a profit.

General Blogs

Nowadays, anyone with a computer or mobile phone can create a blog and publish or cite information that can’t be checked. Be cautious and select the type of sources. Only verified channels with a particular checkbox before writing.

You should also avoid common magazines while writing a research paper. They have an excess of commercial uses to promote products or services. Scientific publications are reliable sources for research papers because they aim to educate their readers.

Outdated Sources

Old sources, especially books, can become useless, which is the same as being unreliable. On the other hand, such type as reliable websites tends to be changed often. It's essential to check the publication date of the books and websites before including them in your writing paper.

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Tips for Finding Research Paper Sources

After reading all the information in this article, how to find good sources?

It is not difficult to find credible research paper sources and discover new facts and data. It does require some patience and analysis, but nothing that can’t be done if correctly approached. To list sources, in the following paragraph, you can find helpful information and tips to find trustworthy resources, books, and journals to write an award-winning research paper.

  • Begin with reliable sources. Cautious with Wikipedia. Wikipedia is one of the most accessible resources in the world for your paper. However, it makes Wiki vulnerable to editing and entering unverified information. Use the wiki resources wisely, and don't cite publications directly in your writing paper. Next to the words, you can find the number. By clicking on the number, you can see the source of the article's author. You can find different credible sources, such as credible journal articles, an essay of a famous author, and thematic researching papers. It is hard to find in Google search, but Wiki is ready to share it.
  • Go to your local library. The library can provide an incredible type of resources of printed data and a vast catalog of materials for research paper or some that don't require up-to-date information. Furthermore, the library is a center for those engaged in writing a research paper, information-flooded places.
  • Find secondary sources and start from there. If you find a starting point newspaper article where a primary source is cited, look for the quality of materials that have been re-published the most by other authors. The goal is to use only the most credible and “used” source that can back up your academic research paper. Basically, find the range type of primary resources you must include in your piece in the credible sources for your paper.
  • Use various sourcing type. Writing a research paper at the academic level is recommended to use as many sourcing types as possible. The paper, books, websites, newspaper articles, documents, research studies, and others are good examples of this that will take your research paper to the next level.
  • Add one source per page. This standard requirement can vary depending on the professor, but a good rule to follow is to add at least one credible source of information per page to back up the writing information.

Crafting an award-winning academic paper is largely dependent on finding reliable sources. By following the tips in this article, you can create a successful paper. If you're short on time, you can also buy a research paper online to save you effort and time.

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Prof. Linda Mia

I’ve worked for the past eight years as a content editor, creative writer, and professional essay writer. Every day, I work hard to make sure my clients are satisfied with the projects and papers I write for them. My areas of expertise are wide, ranging from Psychology and Sociology to Political Science and World History.

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