Research papers are academic writings that require a lot of background information. Not only that, but you'll also have to cite credible sources that you use as references while writing your paper.
Sure, the internet is an ocean of information where you just type whatever you want to know to Google – and boom, you've got a blog that matches your query. But with research papers, you can't just cite a random website on the internet.
However, that doesn't mean you can't find reliable sources on the internet. In this article, we'll be diving deep into where to find credible sources for research papers. Let's dive right in.
How to Check the Credibility of a Source
The first thing you should do to find credible sources for your papers is to check their credibility. There are millions of journals, websites, and news portals you can cite as your source – but not all of them will be accurate or reliable.
You can also use the CRAAP test, which is an acronym developed by California State University in 2004.
- Currency: Is the research up to date?
- Relevance: Is it relevant to your scope of the study?
- Authority: Who wrote and published the source? Are they reputable and trustworthy?
- Accuracy: Are the claims supported by credible evidence?
- Purpose: What's the author's motive behind writing the source?
But apart from the method above, here are several things you can do to check your source's credibility.
1. Check the Author's Background
Regardless of where you find your sources, if the author is someone publicly known to be an expert in their field – it's likely to be credible and accurate information (or data-backed opinion).
For example, if you're writing a research paper on astrophysics, an article on Neil DeGrasse Tyson's (a reputable astrophysicist) personal blog is most likely credible enough to cite.
If you're unsure whether an author is an expert in the topic you're researching, try looking up their name on research databases like JSTOR.
2. Look for Moderate to Long Articles
While it's not always the case, most short-form articles (~3,000 words) don't have enough background information or data to back the claim. The average length of a research paper is 4,133 words – so anything that's below that is likely to be lacking in information.
3. Look for Unbiased Analysis of the Topic
A credible research paper or source should always play a neutral role in the subject of discussion – not to be confused with having a hypothesis. If the paper you're referring to offers multiple research points of view, then it's credible enough to cite in yours.
The easiest way to tell if a source is unbiased is by checking whether or not you can find the whole truth behind a claim and what leads the author to make it. If the author comes to a conclusion without explaining the facts behind it, there's a good probability that it's biased.
4. Check for Citations Used in the Article
Yes, proper citations used in the paper's bibliography also determine the credibility of the research you're referring to. Regardless of who writes the paper, there's a chance of misinformation if the author doesn't use credible sources.
It means that the initial misinformation from that author can continue with yours – and the chain reaction will go on when future researchers use your paper as a reference.
15 Relevant Sources for Your Research Paper
With the flood of information available today, finding a credible source for your research can be very challenging – especially if you're still an undergraduate with minimum experience in finding credible research papers.
Since background research is the foundation of your paper, you should prepare a research paper outline so you can better allocate your time to finding necessary information for each section of your work.
But fret not; we've rounded up a list of credible entities, websites, and sources you can use to find proper background information on your paper.
1. Government entities
Papers, information, and claims published by government entities are highly regulated by professionals in the respective department. In other words, they're definitely credible sources that you can cite in your paper.
The degree of information availability and accessibility will vary depending on the country – but some outstanding examples of government databases are:
- The Australian Department of Health
- CIA World Factbook
- The US CDC Research
2. Trusted news portals
If you're looking for recency and credibility, there is no better source than trusted news portals. But that is not to say that you can blindly trust everything you hear from news portals. You still need to cross-reference between outlets to see if the claims are uniform, indicating accuracy.
Journals are also periodical publications that you can use as references if you want credible sources for research papers. Academic journals are universally required to have been peer-reviewed before they can be published.
Journals are also useful because there are typically more than one articles published in the same volume – which will save you a ton of time if you can find the right one.
4. Indexes and abstracts
Indexes and abstracts are excellent sources of information that you can quickly scan to determine whether the research topics are relevant to your paper. Abstracts typically have the in-a-nutshell version of the research, whereas indexes allow you to quickly browse through the paper to find specific information or data.
5. Newspaper indexes
If you're writing a research paper requiring past data, newspaper indexes will have a ton of information you can use as references. Newspaper indexes include name, date, subject, illustration, and other details that you can typically find in newspapers.
6. Reference books
Reference books (also known as reference sources) are publications that you can use to quickly get specific facts or an overview of a subject. Some examples of reference books are dictionaries, bibliographies, directories, atlases, encyclopedias, and handbooks.
7. Google Scholar
Google Scholar is an online curated database by Google that allows you to browse academic papers on the internet globally. It practically integrates sources from various disciplines and formats, including articles, theses, books, abstracts, and court opinions.
Google also crawls data from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities, and many other types of credible websites.
JSTOR is an online library with over 12 million journal articles, books, images, and primary sources across 75 disciplines. With over 72 million people visiting JSTOR regularly, it's safe to say that their collection of academic papers is quite astounding.
9. Microsoft Academic
Microsoft Academic was released in 2016 by the tech giant to be an independent search engine that specifically crawls for academic papers. It works similarly to Google Scholar in gathering data from various credible online repositories.
10. SAGE Publishing
SAGE Pub is another popular online directory for academic papers, ranging from abstracts to full-blown research papers. You can browse more than a dozen disciplines divided into two categories: science, tech, medicine, and humanities & social science. You can also find papers by their authors if you already know whose paper you want to use as a reference.
If you're specifically looking for sources in the science, medical, and health disciplines – ScienceDirect is an online directory you should explore. It allows you to easily search academic papers by keywords, author name, and title. You can also directly go to a specific volume and issue (if you're looking for a journal article).
Academia is another popular research paper directory with over 188 million users that you can use to find sources for your research paper for free. It has more than 36 million academic papers across various disciplines, from history to science and health.
Once you sign up, you can also share your academic paper on this platform, which will open up others to read and use your work as a reference.
There's no better source of information on space travel and astrophysics than NASA. The American space agency is practically leading the way in discovering more of our universe.
If you're doing a research paper on those subjects, look no further than NASA's website and publications. Practically all information they publish has top-notch accuracy since they're all written by experts and backed by actual research data.
14. Scientific American
Scientific American is another credible source of information for anything related to science news, expert analysis, and health research. Their publication is primarily the latest news on science and natural phenomena across the globe.
You can also find news on various subjects, including health, environment, technology, and space, in the form of podcasts and videos.
15. The Economist
If you're looking for credible news and research source on economics and finances, look no further than the Economist. The Economist has been providing the latest economic news from across the globe for decades – a testament to its credibility.
3 Sources to Avoid for your Research Paper
With all the credible sources listed above, you'll probably have more than enough references to complete your research paper. But if you still need more sources that aren't listed above, the best way to avoid misinformation is by avoiding non-credible sources.
These are some places you should avoid when looking for sources for a research paper.
1. Social media
As much fun as social media are, they are not a reliable source of information that you can use on your research paper. The content on social media platforms is user-generated, meaning anyone – including your uncle – can upload anything they want.
Articles from personal and company blogs often dominate search results when you look things up on Google – but you shouldn't rely on those articles because, more often than not, they don't have significant data to back their claims.
We all know how much we rely on Wikipedia to get information on various subjects. Unfortunately, Wikipedia is also a user-generated encyclopedia that relies on contributors from various backgrounds – but mostly, they're not certified experts on a subject matter.
So, let Wikipedia be your source of information for non-academic subjects – but steer clear from using it as a source for your research paper.
However, here’s an interesting video by Stanford History Education Group on how to use Wikipedia wisely
Sources for research papers can determine the quality and accuracy of your work – so it's understandable that you only want to use credible ones. While the degree of misinformation in today's digital world is extremely high, there are still reliable sources that you can trust.
Hopefully, this article can help you to find credible websites and sources for your research paper.
Last edit at Jul 27 2023