How to Start Academic Research Paper Writing: Looking for Credible Sources

Research has changed much in the last ten-twenty years. In the old days, a person seeking valid research would go to the library and spend hours flipping through books. Now a library or libraries, as well as other sources, can be accessed via the Internet while you are at home sitting on your couch.

A researcher can access college libraries, databases, professional journals, email interviews, specialized organizations and their online sites, and various other websites while gathering information online. And, of course, you can still go to the local school, college, or public library for sources. There are a few ways to determine if the sources are credible and valid.


  • Org. is a flashing light of approval for sources
  • Gov. is also a solid source sign
  • Do not use sites where the general public can add or delete information
  • Unless the interview is from a professional, do not get your sources from the same cite where you get your tunes
  • When you want to interview a specialist, consider perusing the staff directory of your local college and then sending an email with questions (send a few of these so all your eggs are not in one basket)
  • Check the age of the article author (if the author is ten, you might want to pass on using the source)
  • Look for credentials in the author biography
  • If you read an article, and nothing is there for you to use, then check out the article bibliography-you may find additional credible and appropriate sources there
  • Get to know your librarian(s)-they can hold a vast pool of valuable information
  • Write letters, real ones with stamps, to experts in the field, always include questions
  • And if all of these tips fail, which they will not, ask your teacher

Think Out of the Box

Try to be innovative with gathering sources. Consider that your friends and family may actually be a source of information. For example, if you were to live in South Florida and you were writing about Cuban immigration policy, there would be many people who had personal stories relating to the policy.

Consider that if the paper is a part of a national project, like NHD, the project site will possibly include suggested source venues. Always check the program pages before beginning.

Sending a wildcard letter will not hurt and you may get a response. Think out of the box in addition to using standard sources, that way your paper is unique.

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