Research essays are part of students’ academic assignments. They are essential and play a pivotal role in a person’s final grade. Research papers improve students’ ability to critically evaluate sources, find relevant information on the topic, and include it in the paper. Although research papers aren’t the most assigned task, it is vital to know how to write them.
This type of writing assignment requires the writer to collect and rely on a specific number of sources. The latter must be academic and credible. Otherwise, regardless of the content, the writer is doomed to fail. You may ask, “But how to find authoritative sources and be sure they pertain to my paper?” The article will answer this and many other questions related to sources and ways to find and check their reliability.
Research paper: Definition
It would be reasonable to know what a research essay is and why students write it. A research paper is an extended paper that presents the writer’s interpretation or assessment, or argument. The writer has to understand the topic, build some theories, collect sources, peruse and interpret them, and determine what experts know about the field. As was said, research papers are assigned rarely. First, because they usually have over ten pages of content. And second, because they are demanding. They help the writer explore the field and come up with a unique research question for their thesis or dissertation.
Types of sources
Lots of sources exist these days. But all of them fall into two categories: primary and secondary. Now, the difference between them is that primary sources are original materials produced by people who experienced the notion or were trailblazers of the field. That is, suppose you write about the concept of universal grammar. In that case, Chomsky’s work of 1965 about universal grammar is the primary source because he found this concept as a response to a behaviorist thinking of a language. Nonetheless, let’s take a closer look at these two types.
Primary sources serve as a basis for different studies. This includes diaries, memos, poems, novels, fieldwork, notes, and many more. While primary sources are unparalleled and unchanged, they don’t usually prevail in research papers. Most writers, including scholars and experts who produce cheap research papers, rest upon secondary sources because they contain detailed analyses and interpretations of primary sources.
Such examinations and reviews are beneficial, as they give a bigger picture to a specific idea or concept. For some reason, many students try to include only primary sources in their works. But they don’t take into account that such sources can often be misleading and describe only one side of a coin.
The mentioned are a general classification of sources. They encompass print and digital sources, which requires a more extensive explanation:
Obviously, print sources are those printed by publishing houses. They are more preferred when writing a research paper. These are:
- Books and textbooks
- Academic and trade journals
- Government reports and legal documents
- Press releases and advertising
- Flyers, pamphlets, and leaflets
The great thing is that they can be found in digital versions on the Internet.
Apart from those, there are also digital sources. They are less preferred by educational institutions. Many instructors advise against using them because they might contain contradictory and false information. These are usually:
- Blogs and personal web pages
- Social media networks’ posts
Of course, it doesn’t mean they can’t be attached to the research essay. Every source is worth including if it is plausible, revealing, and credible. But how to make sure it is valid? Let’s find out!
Visit Typical Scholarly Websites
Checking standard pages is the first thing you should do. By standard, we mean well-known Google Scholar, AcademiaEdu, ResearchGate, Sage Publications, Jstor, and Scopus. These are typical databases that contain scholarly articles on various topics.
Depending on your subject, you may need to look for more different pages to find more articles. In this case, you have to be extremely careful and consider checking various factors that determine the source’s reliability.
When looking for a source, make sure to examine its authorship. Checking credentials is essential because it will help you identify the author and their expertise. Start by looking at their previous publications. If they are authors and/or co-authors of several books or articles, check these publications. Can you find them on the above websites? If yes, the source is acceptable. If not, find the original publication and where it was first published, web page-wise.
Domains .edu and .gov are credible, as they are always reserved for educational and government institutions. In turn, domains .org, .com, and .net can be used by anyone. Of course, it doesn’t necessarily mean that pages with these domains are unreliable instantaneously. They can also contain credible information, so make sure to double-check it beforehand.
Examine the Publication Date
Academic writing usually requires using updated sources. This is justified by the fact that academia changes rapidly, and information tends to become outdated faster. It is true. Lots of information that was precise ten years ago is irrelevant now. So it is vitally important to rely on recently published sources.
Ideally, make sure to attach recently published sources. Books and articles that were published within a five-year timeframe are acceptable. If they are older, your instructor might ask you to find updated versions.
Walk Through the Text and Check Perspective and Writing Style
It is crucial to know that a source isn’t biased and considers two sides. Once you find a source, find and read the chapter relevant to your topic. Does the author provide arguments for their stance and take into consideration possible counterarguments? Including counterarguments and debunking them strengthens the initial standpoint and makes it solid. In turn, extremely biased and ignorant sources, i.e., that don’t consider–let alone accept–the other side, often misrepresent information that can affect your research paper.
A research paper strongly relies on academic sources. They all must be authoritative and carry unbiased information on the topic. Finding credible literature might be challenging. But by no means is it impossible. The article gives an overview of what research paper is, what types of sources exist, and how to find and evaluate their authenticity.