How to find sources for research papers

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How to formulate the research question of your scientific paper

Firstly, the question is not how to find any, old sources for research papers but to find quality ones which can serve to answer the issue your paper addresses.

If you’re using an online search engine, randomly typing in keywords or questions will yield a vast amount of information that will in most likelihood not relate to your research topic.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with starting your research on the internet; in fact, it’s a good idea. Yet it is critical to make certain that your search terms are specific enough to render the exact information you seek.

Start by making a list of the keywords that are relevant to your research. This may include the names of scientists who have dealt with your subject as well as every term directly linked to the topic you are researching. Plus, keep in mind that the more specific you are, the better.

Then define what medium you are looking for (books or articles, dissertations or other theses, research reports, etc.). How recent should they be? Select a time frame. Also, decide if you want to include texts in foreign languages as well? – If so, translate the keywords on your list.

Recommendations for Academic Databases

Now you’re prepared to start your research. It is useful to start with general treatises and gradually narrow down your search.

If you want to get more specific, use web portals like BASE or online catalogues provided by university libraries.

Other search engines specialize in academic content and deal with a myriad of topics and types of publications (like, for instance, jstor.org), while some are specialized in online-sources (such as Google Scholar) or in different subjects (ssrn.com for Social Sciences or biomedcentral.com for Biology and Medicine).

You can find a dedicated list of various databases on Wikipedia on the “list of academic databases and search engines.”

Speaking of Wikipedia, please note that it is not a reliable source nor one from which to pull quotes. But you can use it to get general information as well as links to other sources to help you build up your bibliography at first.

Content from non-academic journals or newspapers is not seen as a proper reference unless you are dealing with this kind of media or a topic which involves the media to any capacity.

Even concerning articles from scientific journals there may be differences in the degree of their scientific value. Those who use peer reviews to choose their content are the most reliable. When it comes to books, the reputation of a publisher and the assortment of its products can give you a hint about its standing in the academic world.

The next step is to get copies of the first sources you have found; their indices will supply you with further sources and from there, you can build a network of references and sources.

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