Imagine this: you are in a dark room feeling each object around you to gather some understanding of where you are. If anybody could see you right now, they would instantly be reminded of Velma from Scooby-Doo frantically searching the ground to find her glasses. As time goes on, you finally give up and let the darkness consume you. This grim illustration accurately depicts what searching for applicable and reliable sources feels like. Oftentimes, you feel like you are continually searching for one article that sheds light on your topic and opens a whole new world of writing opportunities. In the midst of the chaos and panic, it is easy to give in and use irrelevant and unreliable sources. However, I am here to help you fight the darkness and find the best sources for your paper.
Because technology is such a prominent tool in our lives today, we should probably start with sources on the internet. In high school, my teachers stressed the importance of gathering information from credible websites. What makes a site credible? Typically, if the source’s URL ends with .gov, .edu, or .org, then the information is probably trustworthy. Because .gov websites contain information published by governmental entities, these websites are credible. Likewise, .edu sites are published and sponsored by universities; therefore, the information should usually be accurate. However, the .org websites are a bit different. Generally, these sites should contain accurate information, but each is published by a specific organization leaving more room for error and bias.
Now, you might be asking yourself about .com websites because they are the most common. If you want to use a source that ends with .com, then you should do more digging and researching on that website and article. By looking up the author, you will be able to see his or her credentials. If the person is simply a writer with no expertise or knowledge in the subject of the article, then you should probably find another source. Then, look at the website. Does it seem to be a blog or a chatroom? Are there any misspellings within the website? Does the author seem biased towards his or her own beliefs? Are there any other red flags that you notice in your investigation? If any of your answers are yes, then it might be best to search for other sources.
What if your professor requires a certain number of scholarly articles? No need to fear! If you go to Dallas Baptist University (DBU), then you attend an amazing university that offers great resources for its students. To find scholarly articles, go to the website and click on the library tab, where you will find numerous scholarly databases. If you do not go to DBU, then you should check with your school’s library about scholarly sources. Perhaps, they have a system like ours and can help you navigate through it.
Depending on your topic, particular databases might be more beneficial to you. For example, some are specifically designed for business courses; others are for psychology courses, while still others target various disciplines. If you want to strengthen your paper, then finding information within these databases will be the way to do it. Since they can be a bit challenging, the library has a research desk where there are professional individuals who can help you navigate through the darkness.
Before I end my informative discussion about finding trustworthy sources online, I must make a point about the infamous Wikipedia. Although this website can be helpful in the brainstorming stage of the writing process, you should never use it in the actual research paper. Because anybody can edit Wikipedia, the information might not be credible or true; therefore, you do not want to use it to back up the claim in an academic research paper. You can use it to generate some ideas about the path of your research but find some more scholarly sources like the ones discussed above to cite in the paper.
After reading this article, I hope you no longer have to stumble in the darkness. Instead, you should be able to confidently find your way to the brightest light to help you on your journey. You will no longer settle for unreliable or irrelevant sources due to your fear of the darkness. You will be able to navigate the world-wide web to find the sources that fit perfectly into your paper and strengthen your points. Now, the scavenger hunt begins.