Finding and Citing Resources for a College Paper

Whether researching a topic for a report or looking for an online dictionary service, there are many available online tools to help you through your education. Many students do not know where to begin, and many do not know the difference between viable resources versus unreliable ones.

There are some great online resources for writing papers. With the proper guidance students can find and use relevant resources in their citations and within their writing. (Photo courtesy of aubrieannshinall.blogspot.com)

When I attended college, research reports and projects were a normal part of the curriculum and study. All my professors commented briefly on what resources they would prefer us not to use, such as Wikipedia, but gave little comment on which resources and what type of resources that were appropriate for our use in projects and reports. It is important to remember a few key points when looking for resources to cite in bibliographies, research reports, etc. I have included some from onlineschools.org:

  • Establish relevance—this means that whatever topic you have chosen for your report or paper you need to make sure the site or information therein is relevant to your topic by not being too broad, too specific, etc. and by searching through the given information for key parts that would be directly related to your topic of choice.
  • Establish authority—this means that you will need to establish the credibility and credentials of the author. This can be done by researching other articles the author has written, if they are an expert in their field, and if they have some sort of credentials relevant to the information they are writing.
  • Evaluate accuracy—check out the site you are planning to use. Read through the footnotes, end notes, and any citations. If the site uses links to its resources, go ahead and visit them to make sure they are credible as well. If links are broken, if there are no citations, or there seems to be information missing concerning resources for the site’s information given, it is probably not that credible.
  • Remember to cite—when writing your report, remember that anything (facts, opinions, wording, etc.) that is not directly from you needs to be cited!

It can become overwhelming to sift through and pick out the best and most relevant sites and resources for your paper or report. But with the proper search with appropriate and topic-specific key words, you can be successful at finding the right resources to include in your work. For some great tips and advice for utilizing search engines to obtain more relevant searches look at this guide. This site is helpful because it talks about how to choose your keywords to bring up resources that will be most relevant and applicable for use in your paper.

When citing works that are not your own in your paper it is best to follow the instructor’s preferences. Does your instructor prefer APA format over MLA? What about CBE? Once you have determined that, you need to write your bibliography accordingly. Within your writing you will need to cite any information that is not directly from you by following the appropriate format. Here are some great resources for aid in citing and creating a bibliography in most formats:

  • wright.edu This site offers downloadable templates for each format common to college papers for you to look over and get a good idea of the parameters used for each
  • setonhill.edu This site offers step-by-step instructions for formatting and writing your paper and works cited page. The site looks at MLA format overall
  • docstyles.com  This site gives great details on writing and citing in APA format
  • wtamu.edu  This site offers FAQs and information on citing works in an array of different formats
  • yalecollege.yale.edu This site offers information and guides for citing internet-based resources such as blogs, personal websites, online journals, etc.
  • distancelearning.com  This article gives some information on plagiarism and how to avoid it
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