Online Research Review: Resources for College Students
When composing an academic paper, it is important to cite reputable sources to add detail and credibility to your writing. The first step is to understand what makes a source reputable. The second is to locate reputable articles and sources that closely relate to the topic that you will be discussing. The following offers a look into both aspects of this process.
Preparing for Research
It is important to make sure that your sources are solid. Did they come from a reputable source? Are they published in a trusted professional journal or by a respected publishing company? Is the writing peer reviewed? Is it timely or relevant? Is it in the correct field of research? It is important to ask these questions before citing a source as authoritative.
Be wary of using websites or Wikipedia. They may be a good place to start your search, but the majority of websites are rarely considered to be primary resources, while citing Wikipedia as a source is frowned upon at many universities and schools. If you do search a topic on Wikipedia, scroll down to the bottom of the page to see if the sources they cited are valid and if you can access them directly to read them yourself, rather than citing Wikipedia.
Sourcing Your Research
Now, you should know what you are looking for, but where should you find it? Google may be a popular search engine, but its general searches can fall short when looking for scholarly articles, and you may find a lot of non-verifiable sources in your search. Your university will often offer access to professional and academic journals and journal databases through their library. If you have not been given access, or are looking for additional ways to find articles, there are also searches available online that offer access to a wide variety of free and access-for-a-fee articles. There are also searches specifically for free full-text articles.
- Columbia College: Evaluating the credibility of your sources
- Brigham Young University: Evaluating your sources
- North Carolina State University: Evaluating sources for credibility
- University of California Santa Cruz: Evaluate your results
- Centers for Disease Control: Deciding whether a source is reliable
Educational Search Engines
There are some great and well-respected search engines for finding access to academic and professional writing online. Here are a few of the top ones:
- Google Scholar will allow you to research a seemingly unlimited number of articles. The search can be further refined by a specified range of years in which articles were published.
- iSeek gives students safe access to trusted sources including universities, government, and noncommercial providers.
- ERIC Institute of Education Sciences has a formal review process that journal articles, grey literature, and books go through before making them available for you to search.
- The Virtual Learning Resource Center is an index of over 10,000 webpages, full-text newspapers, magazines, and more.
- Jstor offers access to journals, primary sources, and books.
- Google Scholar: Search
- iSeek: Search
- ERIC Institute of Education Sciences: Collection
- The Virtual Learning Resource Center: Search
- Jstor: Search
Research & Scholarly Websites
When researching, you may need access to laws, government statistics, scientific research, classic literature, or any of a variety of other materials. Think about what you need, and then choose a source that is most likely to provide access. For example, if you need information on astronomy, NASA's website may be a good place to start. For information on the US population, the US Census Bureau would be an ideal resource.
The following websites offer links to a variety of reputable resources that you may not have already considered:
Open Access Journal Databases
If you are looking specifically for full-text articles that do not require membership or a fee to access, try an open access journal database. The following are excellent directories to try:
- The Directory of Open Access Journals is a volunteer-run website that indexes open-access peer reviewed journals. You can use it to search for journals as well as specific articles.
- Elsevier has a list of their open access journals covering a wide variety of scholarly and professional topics.
- The Open Access Digital library offers a way to search over 12,000 scholarly journals that offer full-text articles.
- The International Association for Media and Communication Research also has an extensive listing of full-text journals.
- SpringerOpen offers a list of all the SpringerLink open access journals covering science, medicine, technology, social sciences, humanities, and more.
- Wiley Open Access has a search function to search for articles in any or all of their full-text journals.
- Project Euclid offers a list of all their mathematical publications that can be accessed in full for free.
- Directory of Open Access Journals: DOAJ
- Elsevier: Open access journals
- Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries: The open access library
- International Association for Media and Communication Research: Open access journals
- SpringerOpen: Journals
- Wiley Open Access: Welcome to Wiley Open Access
- Project Euclid: Open access
Additional Research Resources
Do you still need some additional information before writing your paper? Check out the following helpful resources for academic writers and researchers:
MIT Libraries offer an overview on how to cite sources within your writing on their page, Citing sources overview. Duke University Libraries also offer advice. They break it down into five common types of academic writing (APA, Chicago, CSE, MLA and Turabian) on their Citing sources page. The Purdue Online Writing Lab is also a favorite source among many students. They offer simple to understand style and citation information broken down into easy to search categories. You can start your search on their Research and citations resources page.
You may also find the following helpful:
- The Western Journal of Medicine has an excellent writing resource titled Turning your abstract into a paper: Academic writing made simpler.
- The Connecticut General Assembly OLR research report has a great article on copyright laws in academic writing.
- The Office of Research Integrity offers useful advice in their article, Avoiding plagiarism, self-plagiarism, and other questionable writing practices: A guide to ethical writing.