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Research Paper: A step-by-step guide: 4. Appropriate Sources

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What Source Should You Use?

What Type of Information Do You Need?

The type of sources you might need for your research will depend on the type of research you are conducting. Familiarizing yourself with various types of sources will help you with both your current paper and future research. Below you will find a quick overview of common types of resources that will help you navigate how best to choose sources for your research.

 Broad categories of information and where you can find them can be broken down into the following areas:


Scholarly Resources

Scholarly resources (sometimes called academic resources) have the following qualities:

  • Written by experts with credentials or affiliations (PhD, M.D.)
  • Written for other experts - each work is a voice in an ongoing conversation
  • Scholarly language - technical, discipline specific vocabulary
  • Verifiable and reliable evidence - look for citations
  • Peer reviewed - editorial process where other experts review and assess information 

Peer review is an important process in scholarly communication. The process of peer review is supposed to ensure that corrections are made to an article before publication, holding the article's content to a higher standard. 

Scholarly journals are the main publication format for scholarly research. Most scholarly journals are available for students online and are accessible through library databases. Find out more about library databases below. 


Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Resources

Sometimes you will be asked to find resources categorized as primary, secondary, or tertiary resources. For historical research, the library has an excellent guide, Understanding Historical Sourcesbreaking down these types of resources and where you can find them. 

It should be noted that a primary source in the scientific disciplines looks a little different than a primary historical source. Put simply, a primary source in the sciences would be the original research, data, or material that forms the basis for other research. For example, the first time research about a new scientific discovery is published would be the primary source. A paper that analyzes or interprets the original research would be a secondary source. A tertiary source would collect and summarize the information from both the primary and secondary sources. 


Choosing a Resource

The library has many way to help you narrow down what source to use for your research.


Choosing the Best Database for Your Project

You will learn about search techniques in a later step of the research process. But for now you can watch a quick video that will help you determine how to choose the best database for your project

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