You have a research paper due. The professor has approved your topic and thesis statement and now it's time to perform the research. So where do you find the needed information for your paper? How do you locate solid and reliable sources?
High school introduced students to Google, Bing, and Yahoo style searches that gave students instant access to adequate information for their research papers. That type of information was great for high school, but it will not get you far at the college level. Yes, these search engines might provide basic background information, but Wiki will not work as a credible source for academia.
One of the first places you need to visit is not your cell phone or the internet. Yes the internet is a great source for locating sources and information, but it has limited resources if you do not know exactly where to search.
The best resource available to you is your school's library. Librarians know all the resources the school has available and can point you to a wealth of information sources. But remember, they see many students every day so be respectful of their time and do not expect them to perform your research for you. They are there to point and guide but it is your grade and education so be ready to do a lot of searching and reading.
One of the first sources the university's librarian will point out to you is books and journals. Books on your topic are great resources and usually cite many other references and topic experts that you will be able to utilize for your academic paper. The information found in books tends to be comprehensive and extremely thorough. So books on your topic make a great first resource and are well worth the time invested in reading through them. On a side note, when perusing online for information, remember that Google Books is available and can locate numerous books on your topic too.
Journals are another credible source that will give you the latest information concerning your topic. With regular books, you must look at the publishing date to make sure all the information provided is up-to-date. With journals, the information provided will be the latest in the field. Since access to most of these journals is subscription based, ask the librarian what subscriptions are available through the school.
This is where knowing where to look on the internet comes into play with the two major players offering academic search engines for students.
Along similar academic lines, both Google and Microsoft offer comparable type search engines for scholarly papers. Google Scholar offers academic information on any given subject to include how many times a source has been cited in papers. As with regular Google search, a link is given for related topics with each posting in Google Scholar.
Microsoft Academic Search is similar in nature to its Google counterpart but tends to offer better results in the fields related to mathematics and science.
Another free source with access to millions of academic articles is JURN. This search engine is a great free source for locating eJournals and academic publications on subjects in the fields of arts, humanities, science, biomedical, business and ecology.
As with most worlds today, there is a virtual library on the internet that mimics the library at your school of higher learning. Ipl2 merges both the Internet Public Library with the Librarians' Internet Index along with a special search engine that works along the lines of many of the commercial "ask" websites. Students can ask this search engine topical questions and it will reveal answers like a regular search engine. When typing in "What is oil refinery" the search engine gave 500 responses ranging from oil prices to oil slicks to health benefits of olive oil. The site says the questions have been answered by volunteer library science professionals and university students.
Worldcat is the linking of libraries, their resources and content worldwide. Like a Google search, Worldcat uses keywords to locate books and other resources in the library system. The research will reveal the location of the item, and when applicable, will give the student a view of all the electronic content available such as the book's text and photographs. Like ipl2, the services are free.
There are other great research paper sources available on the internet and a quick google search for specific search engines on a particular topic will uncover them for you. Typing "medical search engines" brought up 22,000 hits that included PubMed, iMedisearch, PogoFrog, among many others.
Another great source for students is to utilize all the various countries free governmental agencies information. All the various different U.S. government agencies have online data and information that is free of charge. There is the justice department, the U.S. Census Bureau, the CIA World Factbook and even Science.gov., among others. All these resources are filled with up-to-date information students can use when writing academic papers on various subjects.
So after exhausting all the top material available at your campus library and still lacking one more source, check the worldwide library system and government agencies for your final bits of information and resources and do not forget to cite all the resources you utilized in your academic paper.
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