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7 Tips for Finding Accurate Research Sources for Your Writing Assignment

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7 Tips for Finding Accurate Research Sources for Your Writing Assignment

Stacy Rosenblum

Finding accurate research sources has become easier for students thanks to the accessibility of information on the Internet. But it is more difficult than ever for students to evaluate the credibility of research sources to determine whether the information can actually be cited. So how can you help your child locate and use credible, sophisticated research sources? Here are 7 helpful, easy tips.

1. The MOST Reliable Source = The Primary Source.

Primary research sources are particularly useful for history and science topics. You can’t get much more reliable than a source created at the time of the event or discovery. Examples include The Diary of Anne Frank, The Declaration of Independence, and Watson’s The Double Helix. Read more about primary and secondary research sources here. You can also find a great list of primary sources in American and World History here.

2. Suffixes Matter!

For a clue about the quality of the website source, check out the domain name suffix.

.edu  

Web addresses that end in .edu are usually reliable. The .edu suffix shows that the page was created by or for an educational institution or university.

.org

Non-commercial organizations host .org web pages and are generally reliable. Many .org sites do have a specific bias integral to the organization. For example: democrats.org or gop.org.

.gov

The federal government, state agencies, and city and town governments use the .gov suffix. These sites are reliable sources of information for student research, and are great resources for historical and geographical information about the United States.

.com

“Dot coms” are domain name suffixes used by commercial businesses selling a product or service. One must take this into account when evaluating its credibility as a source.  The research behind claims made by a .com site is not subject to the same level of scrutiny and validation as an .edu or .gov site.

3. Go to the Back of the Textbook.

Investigating the index of your History or Science textbook is a great way to collect reliable sources. Textbook authors have already vetted these sources, so you can count on their accuracy. Check out the end of each chapter for reliable source references as well.

4. Use Wikipedia (in a More Awesome Way).

Over the years, Wikipedia has become more reliable as a general source of information. This is thanks to its large audience of readers, and its rigorous editorial guidelines. Yet teachers often steer students away from Wikipedia, because the pages are curated by its community of users.

However, the “References” section of each entry is rich with source material.  Scroll all the way down to the bottom of the entry.  You will find a list of resources related to your topic, with links to the source itself.

5. Subscriptions - Use Them for Free.

Many libraries, schools, and universities make electronic databases available to their constituents.  Look for a database link on your local library or school website. Check out ProQuest and ERIC for scholarly articles. You can also look through The New York Times archives for historical sources.

6. Visit a Museum Online.

Many leading museums have richly curated exhibits with content available online. This includes The British Museum, The Smithsonian, and The American Museum of Natural History. You can identify high quality research sources to use for your research through their websites.

7.  The Best Kept Google Secret...

Using Google Scholar is an easy way to search for scholarly literature and peer reviewed material. You can search for articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions, as well as academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites. Because the material on Google Scholar is peer reviewed, it can be considered a highly accurate research source.

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