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Finding Sources For Your Term Paper

Term papers are an arduous task at the best of times. A number of students dread the term paper because of all the writing it entails. Though, to be sure, it is not the writing that is the most difficult part of the term paper. One of the biggest stumbling blocks to a term/research paper is where to start, and where to find the information. Without credible, up-to-date information your term paper will suffer no matter how beautiful and flowing your writing may be.

Primary and Secondary Sources

There are two main types of sources, primary and secondary. Primary sources include first hand information and experience directly related to your topic. If you are writing about the American civil war, examples of primary sources would include direct accounts from soldiers and officers, in the form of letters and journals. Maps used during the war and newspaper accounts of the war are two other forms of primary sources. Secondary sources include books and papers published after the war that relied on information gleaned from the primary sources.

You should strive to use as many primary sources as you can when planning and writing your term paper. Use secondary sources to contrast or reinforce your analysis of the primary information.

Looking for Sources

There a myriad of mediums to find sources for your term paper. A few examples include the internet, books, newspaper accounts, and academic journals.

The advent of the internet for research has been both a boon and a disaster. You can find information about any topic on the internet. Conversely, you will also find much misinformation. The key is to be able to discern what is credible and what is not. Cross reference with other materials to confirm whether the information is correct. Additionally, check the credentials of the authors of any site you peruse.

Books, newspapers, and magazines are also be a good source of information. As with the internet though, you should cross reference the information found with other sources to ensure accuracy. Unlike academic journals - which undergo a peer review process - books, newspapers, and magazines may have an editorial spin (or angle) to promote a particular point of view.

Gleaning information from academic journals is the best way to be sure the source is credible. Articles in academic/professional journals are reviewed by experts of the journal's field of study. Before publication, a journal article goes through a rigorous process to ensure credibility. The list of referenced work in a journal article will also provide more places for you to look for information.

Nearly all of the above sources can be found in your local public or school library. Some libraries even offer a way to view academic journals through their library catalogue.

A final reminder, use as many primary sources as you can to conduct your own analysis and make sure the sources you do use are credible by cross referencing with other sources checking the credentials of the authors.

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