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Articles are shorter and easier to digest than books, they typically have abstracts to help you get an idea of the usefulness of the source, they may reflect more recent research (check the dates), and often they are available electronically.
If you haven’t checked out your school’s article database, you should.
This is where you will probably find most of the good sources for a research paper.
When your professor assigns a research paper, she might tell you “only use scholarly sources.” (If she doesn’t, she just expects you to already know this.) For any college level research paper, the only sources you should use are academic or scholarly sources – sources written by scholars (people with academic training and research in a specific field), for scholarly purposes (not popular consumption).
You’ve probably heard that Wikipedia is not a good scholarly source.
This post is part of “The Cafe Scholar’s Guide to Writing a Research Paper” series, which walks you through the process of writing awesome research papers step by step from start to finish.
When you are done finding great scholarly sources, be sure to check out the rest of the series!
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.
This means that while one scholar or a group of scholars did the research, wrote the source, etc., before publication it was reviewed extensively by other scholars in the field (the author’s peers) to make sure the work is up to snuff.
So you don’t even have to decide if it is an appropriate source: those peer reviewers have done it for you. It will be very easy to tell where the writer/researcher got his information, because it should all be clearly cited.