4 Basic Tips in Selecting the Best Sources for your Research paper

As a student, you are expected to cite scholarly sources for you research papers. Selecting the best sources will result in good grades. This will protect you from outdated information, biased or inaccurate data. The following tips will help when selecting the best sources for your research paper.

  1. Reliability of the source

As a student, you are expected to use reliable sources when writing your academic papers. The information in these sources should be well researched. When determining the reliability of a source there are few things you need to consider. 

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  1. Where does the information come from? Are references indicated?
  2. Does the information have evidence? Is the information verifiable in another source?
  3. Has the reliability and validity of the data been verified by the author? 

For data to be reliable it must have citations, footnotes or a bibliography. This will help in giving evidence for claims made. For data collected through research, the method of data collection should be indicated. It is advisable to avoid sources that do not have authors, copyright or dates. Data from unprofessional website should also be avoided. This types of data are unverifiable and thus unreliable.

  1. The age of the source

Determine the type of information you need. Whether you need the most up to date information or a historical perspective. When determining the age of a source, consider the following questions.

  1. What is the publication date? This will apply when using a book or a journal. 
  2. When was the web page created? This is in case of a website. 
  3. Do you need the current or the historical information? 

Determine when the information was published or posted and whether it has been revised or update.  In most cases you will be expected to use the most recently published work. This is due to the fact that information evolves and changes over time. As a result of this, there is a lot of information that has been proven and disproven. To ensure the information is up to date, you can compare different sources. But in others cases like in literature review, you will be expected to use the past and present information in a particular topic. You can also find this by getting books and journals that gives a summary of that topic or study.

  1. Author qualifications

When it comes to the author qualification, you should ask yourself the following questions.

  1. Who is the author?  Determine whether the book or the journal was written by an individual or an organization.
  2. What qualifications do the author have? Before you decide on the source to use, ensure the author is qualified. Check on the education background to ensure the author is credible in writing on that particular topic.
  3.  Who published the book? Most books are published by a commercial publisher or a university press and editors are used to ensure quality publication. In case of a journal or magazine, check where it is scholarly in nature or popular. For a website, check whether it is a personal blog or organizational website.

Check the qualification of the other in your source and their professional affiliation with a well-recognized institution or university. Avoid a source where the author is not an expert in that area of study and education details are not clearly shown.  

  1. Purpose of the work

When determining why the work was written, you can ask yourself the following questions

  1. Why was the work written?
  2. Who were the intended audience?
  3. Which message did the author want to pass? 

Ensure the author was not affected by social, political, environmental, cultural, economic, and religious or any type of bias. Always pick sources from independent authors. When checking for bias, take note of the tone. Whether it is selling something, informing, entertaining or persuading. Unbiased information should be supported by evidence that can be verified and is independent from the source.


As a student, you will always have academic essays to write. When writing the essays your instructor requires you to cite your work on credible and most current sources. Ensure you use the most current sources. Also ensure the source you select are was written for scholarly purpose and not for entertainment or marketing. The source you select should be written by qualified authors. Reliable and verifiable sources will also end up earning you more points as are able to get true, accurate and reputable information.

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