Places To Get Research Paper Sources

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Research Paper:  Two words that strike fear into the hearts of many students. Four syllables that create panic, dread, and anxiety.

But they don’t have to.

Writing a research paper takes time and requires effort, but if you have a good topic and credible sources, you’re on your way to a great paper.

Wait…what?  Credible sources?

Yes, credible.

Are you thinking, “What’s the difference?  Isn’t one source just as good as another?”

No. Not all sources are created equal.

Think about it. If you want to learn about the current texting and driving laws, would you rather learn about the laws by reading some random guy’s blog who does nothing but rant about the law because he just got a ticket for texting and driving, or would you rather research the law by reading a .gov (government) website?

I think we’d both pick the .gov site.

But .gov sites aren’t the only place to find online credible resources.

Keep reading to learn the 5 best resources to help with writing a research paper.

Why You Should Use Credible Sources When Writing a Research Paper

A research paper is like a jury trial. If you’re an attorney trying to convince the jury your client is innocent, you need hard evidence.

Try convincing a jury that your client is innocent by telling them he wasn’t at the crime scene, and you can prove it because his best friendsaid he wasn’t there.

It isn’t going to work.

Now try convincing the jury that your client is innocent because he was out of town when the crime happened. You have a hotel receipt, plane tickets, and video evidence that he was nowhere near the area at the time of the crime.

This is much more credible and convincing evidence.

When you’re writing a research paper, your arguments are on trial. Your job is to convince your readers and demonstrate your knowledge of the subject.

To do this, you need credible sources written by credible authors such as doctors, researchers, and scholars.

You don’t want to use questionable articles written by the girl who works at the pizza joint down the street or by your best friend’s cousin’s uncle who says he knows a lot about whatever you’re writing about.

Let’s talk about some other sources that won’t help you make your point.

Sources You Shouldn’t Use

The Dictionary:  Don’t start your paper with something like, “According to the dictionary, crazy means mentally deranged.” Readers already know what crazy means. There’s no need to define it.

If you’re using complex terms that readers might not be familiar with, it’s fine to define words, but use a more specialized definition from a journal or other credible source.

A dictionary is great for looking up the meanings of words, but your professors won’t consider the dictionary a scholarly source, so it’s best to avoid using it as a source in your research essays.

About.com:  About.com is a fine website. It has lots of useful information like fresh ideas to decorate your bathroom, the best new hairstyles, and 10 places to see before you die.

While reading about this stuff can be fun, it’s not relevant information for a research paper. These articles are written by people who are passionate about their subject, but the writers aren’t necessarily experts.

Wikipedia.com:  Wikipedia is a fine website, too. It has lots of cool information about lots of cool topics.

The problem with Wikipedia (and other Wikis) is that anyone can write them.

You could create a Wiki about how Steven Spielberg was the first president of the United States. Someone else could read your Wiki online and write a research paper about Spielberg as president.

You could fall victim to this too, and write a research paper using incorrect information. Did you know that at one point, Wikipedia listed the soccer star David Beckham as an 18th century Chinese goalkeeper?  Imagine writing that in your paper!  I don’t think you’d earn the “A” you were hoping for.

Because you can’t be sure that the information is accurate, it’s best to stay away from Wikipedia.

But if you shouldn’t use the websites I’ve just listed, what resources should you use? Keep reading to find out!

5 Best Resources to Help with Writing a Research Paper

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  1. Your school’s library
  2. Google Scholar
  3. RefSeek
  4. Internet Public Library
  5. ERIC

1. Your School’s Library:  This is the best place to begin your research.

The library at your school is an academic library, meaning you’ll find more academic books, journals, and scholarly sources than you will novels and magazines.

One of the best things about researching at your school’s online library is that if you don’t want to leave the comfort of your living room or your dorm room to research, you don’t have to.

As long as you have your library card, you can login and access tons of great resources, such as online databases, e-books, and other research articles.

Don’t tell me you forgot to sign up for your library card!  Don’t tell me your paper is due tonight and there’s no time to get a library card now!

Okay, take a deep breath. Don’t panic. There’s still hope.

Even if you don’t have immediate access to your school’s library, I’ve included four other useful resources that are free and don’t require a library card.

2. Google Scholaris a lot like the Google search engine you’re probably used to.

You simply type in what you’re looking for, and you’ll see a list of results. The difference with Google Scholar is that your list of results won’t contain websites trying to sell you a cell phone or articles about how to dress your dog for the holidays.

Google Scholar will produce a list of journal articles, .pdfs, and websites focusing on much more credible and scholarly sources appropriate for a research paper.

(You know, stuff you can actually use!)

3.  RefSeek This resource is a search engine designed for students and researchers.  It searches online sources but produces more scholarly sites than a standard search engine, such as Google.

One of the great features of RefSeek is that it allows you to search specifically for documents, giving you a better chance of finding credible information to help write your research paper.

4. Internet Public Library (ipl2) This resource allows you to search by subject.

It links to websites, rather than scholarly journals; however, it often links to more credible .gov or .org sites (although you may encounter a few broken links.)

You can also use the handy “Ask an ipl2 Librarian” service. If you aren’t in a rush, you can submit a question to the site’s volunteer librarians, and a professional librarian or grad student will be in touch to help you find the best resources for your topic.

The site says, “Once we have accepted your question, we do our best to answer it promptly. You will receive an answer from us within one week. If you indicate you need a response more quickly, we will try to answer it by that date.

“ipl2 is not a good place to come if you need help right away. We are not a ‘real-time’ service, and it takes us time to read, research, and respond to questions.” Read more here.

 5. ERIC (Education Resources Information Center):  This database primarily focuses on education, but it also includes a number of related topics, such as social work, psychology, and other social issues. A search will provide a list of journal articles (most full-text).

Searching for Sources in ERIC

If you’re searching for sources in most basic search engines, such as Google Scholar, you usually just type in your keywords and read a list of results.  Databases, though, are a bit different. They include the standard search box, but they also include a variety of other options to help narrow your results. Because the searching can be more complex, I’ve included information below to help you get started.

Here’s a quick tutorial to help you begin searching on ERIC.

Step 1:  Type in your keywords. In this example, I’ve chosen guns on college campuses.

Make sure you check the box to show only those results available in full text.

Searching for full text articles means you’ll be able to read the entire article immediately. You won’t have to worry about tracking it down at some library across the country, and you won’t have to pay $19.99 to purchase an article you don’t even know if you want to use yet!

Step 2:  Review the search results.

  • If you are looking for articles written during a specific time frame, check out the left column (Publication Date).
  • If you want to read a summary (also known as an abstract) click on the title of the article. (Article titles are hyperlinked in blue in the middle of the screen.)
  • If you want to read the article immediately, click on the full text option at the right of your screen. (Articles are usually provided in .pdf format.)

It Really is that Simple

As you can see, there’s no reason to be panic-stricken about writing a research paper.

Use the resources in this post to help you find the most credible and useful sources, and you’ll be on your way to writing an amazing paper.

Once you find the perfect sources, you’ll still need to actually write the paper, so review Writing a Library-Based Research Paper and Research Paper Steps for help with putting together your essay.

Have you finished writing a research paper, but still need someone to review it?  Contact our Kibin editors for help!

Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.

Introduction

Reading scientific literature is a critical part of conceiving of and executing a successful advanced science project. The How to Read a Scientific Paper guide can help you get the most out of each paper you read—first, of course, you have to actually get your hands on the paper! That's where this guide comes in. Below you'll find tips and resources for both searching for and acquiring free copies of scientific papers to read.

Academic Search Engines: Resources for Finding Science Paper Citations

When you start your background research, one of the early steps is finding and reading the scientific literature related to your science project (see the Roadmap: How to Get Started On an Advanced Science Project article for more details on project steps). Mentors are a great resource for recommendations about which scientific papers are critical for you to read and you should definitely ask your mentor, or another expert in the field, for advice. But there'll also be times when your mentor is busy or isn't up-to-date on a particular experimental method, in which case, you'll need to be proactive and hunt for papers on your own. It turns out that just plugging search terms into a regular search engine, like Google, Yahoo, or MSN, isn't very effective. The pages you get back will be a wide mixture of websites, and very few will be links to peer-reviewed scientific papers. To find scientific literature, the best thing to use is an academic search engine.

There are many different academic search engines. Some focus on a single discipline, while others have citations from multiple fields. There are a handful of free, publicly available academic search engines that can be accessed online; some of these are listed in Table 1, below. The remainder, like the ISI Web of Science, are subscription-based. Universities and colleges often subscribe to academic search engines. If you can't find what you need using a free search engine, you may be able to access these resources from computers in a university or college library. Consult the school's library webpage, or call the library directly, to find out to which academic search engines they subscribe to and whether or not you'd be allowed into the library to access them.

Table 1: This table provides a list of free, online academic search engines for various science disciplines.



Here are a few tips to help you get started with the academic search engines:

  • Each search engine works slightly differently, so it's worth taking the time to read any available help pages to figure out the best way to use each one.
  • When you're beginning your literature search, try several different key words, both alone and in combination. Then, as you view the results, you can narrow your focus and figure out which key words best describe the kinds of papers in which you are interested.
  • As you read the literature, go back and try additional searches using the jargon and terms you learn while reading.

Note: The results of academic search engines come in the form of an abstract, which you can read to determine if the paper is relevant to your science project, as well as a full citation (author, journal title, volume, page numbers, year, etc.) so that you can find a physical copy of the paper. Search engines do not necessarily contain the full text of the paper for you to read. A few, like PubMed, do provide links to free online versions of the paper, when one is available. Read on for help finding the full paper.

How to Get a Copy of a Scientific Paper

Once you've found the citation for a paper that is relevant to your advanced science project, the next step is actually getting a copy so that you can read it. As mentioned above, some search engines provide links to free online versions of the paper, if one exists. If the search engine doesn't, or if you got the citation somewhere else, like the bibliography of another science paper you were reading, there are several ways to find copies.

Searching for Newer Papers (published during Internet era)

  • Check the library of a local college or university. Academic institutions, like colleges and universities, often subscribe to many scientific journals. Some of these libraries are free to the public. Contact the library, or look at their website, to see if you may use their resources and if they subscribe to the journals in which you're interested. Often, the library's catalog of holdings is online and publicly searchable.
    1. Note: If you do go to a university or college library to photocopy or print journal articles, make sure to bring plenty of change with you, because they won't have any!
  • Look for a free online version. Try searching for the full title of the paper in a regular search engine like Google, Yahoo, or MSN. The paper may come up multiple times, and one of those might be a free, downloadable copy. So, if the first link isn't downloadable, try another.
  • Go directly to the online homepage of the journal in which the paper was published. Some scientific journals are "open-source," meaning that their content is always free online to the public. Others are free online (often after registering with the website) if the paper was published more than a year ago. The Directory of Open Access Journals is also a good place to check to see which journals are free in your field of interest. The website lists journals by subject, as well as by title.
  • Search directly for the homepage of the first or last author of the paper and see if he or she has a PDF of the paper on his or her website. If so, you can download it directly from there. Generally it is only worth looking up the first author (the one who contributed the most to the paper) or the last author (usually the professor in whose lab the work was done and who supervised the science project).
  • Look for the paper (using the title or authors) in a science database, like those listed below, in Table 2. These databases contain free, full-text versions of scientific papers, as well as other relevant information, like publicly accessible data sets.


Table 2: List of databases containing free, full-text scientific papers and data sets.



  • Purchase a copy. Depending on the science magazine publisher, you may also come across offers for purchasing a copy of the paper. This is an expensive option, particularly if you have multiple papers you'd like to read; try some of the other searching methods first

Searching for Older Papers (published pre-Internet era)

Even with all of the above searching methods, you may not be able to find a free copy of the paper online. This is particularly true for older science papers, which were published before online content became routine. In these cases, there are additional ways to get the paper at no or minimal cost.

  • Contact the author via email. As mentioned above, the first and last authors are your best bets. Briefly explain your situation and request a copy of the paper directly from him or her. If you do this, make sure to be polite and brief in your email.
  • Check the library of a local college or university. Academic institutions, like colleges and universities, often subscribe to many scientific journals. Some of these libraries are free to the public. Contact the library, or look at their website, to see if you may use their resources and if they subscribe to the journals in which you're interested. Often, the library's catalog of holdings is online and publicly searchable.
    1. Note: If you do go to a university or college library to photocopy or print journal articles, make sure to bring plenty of change with you, because they won't have any!
  • Contact your mentor and ask if he or she can help you acquire a copy of the paper. Use this as a last resort though, because you may find that your request falls pretty far down on a mentor's lengthy to-do list.

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