How to Find Great Research Sources Online


Every student will do research for a paper or classroom assignment and will need to find some of these sources online. At first, online research seems like it would be easier than searching through a brick-and-mortar library because students can work on their computer in the convenience of their own home. However, looking for good sources online can become overwhelming pretty quickly because the Internet is filled with all sorts of information that is not necessarily appropriately sourced or written by an expert. It’s important that students find the right information that can help them support their thesis or complete their assignment. There are several ways students can find great resources online using these tips.

1. Look for the author or publisher

Students should first consider who the author is and if they have any expertise in the subject, they are writing about. If students are looking for sources for a science paper, they should determine whether or not the author has a background in science, a degree in this subject, or even a particular interest in what they’re writing about. Students should also consider the publisher. Is this a well-known science magazine that has been published for years? Is it a personal opinion blog? What else has the publisher put online recently?

2. Is the information sourced?

The second thing students should look at is whether or not the information presented in the publication has been appropriately sourced. If students are reading about current events, for example, they are encouraged to look for quotes or source material at the bottom of the publication. If the information isn’t sourced, then it’s the author’s personal opinion. Students should consider how important it is that they use quotes and sources in their papers and that it’s as important that the author they’re reading about source any information that didn’t come from their mind (READ: San Diego Tutoring Tips: Ways to Improve Concentration).

3. Fact versus opinion

Students need to learn the difference between a stated fact and an author’s opinion. An excellent source will provide a balanced opinion which does not try to sway the reader but rather presents information from multiple perspectives and allows the reader to come up with an opinion of their own. There might be multiple sides to a news story, and there can be multiple interpretations of a piece of literature, for example. Students need to know the difference, so they don’t read about somebody’s opinion and think it’s a fact. Facts can always be confirmed through outside sources while opinions can come from anywhere.

4. Common knowledge and subject-specific knowledge

Students also need to determine the difference between common knowledge, something that does not need to be quoted, and subject-specific knowledge, which will need a quotation or source. A great example of common knowledge is that the Declaration of Independence was ratified on July 4th, 1776. This is considered to be something that everybody knows thus students are not required to provide a quote. On the other hand, if a student is writing about the significance of automobiles in the novel The Great Gatsby, they will need to provide a quotation or source to support their interpretation. This is a subject-specific situation that is not considered to be something every single person is already aware of.

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