By Will Forde-Mazrui, Writing Studio Consultant
Many students have difficulty writing research papers, but this struggle does not necessarily come from a lack of ideas. For the majority of undergraduate students, the most daunting aspect of a research paper is locating credible sources. Once students have selected a topic, getting started on research can be debilitating. Luckily, the USF Library is well equipped with everything undergraduate students need to find credible sources.
Locating Credible Sources
While Google searches and Wikipedia can be a great starting point for research (what we call “informal research”), they often lead students astray when looking for credible sources. The Internet can provide valuable background material, but most research papers call for credible sources.
What makes a source credible?
First and foremost, peer-reviewed/scholarly publications are the easiest to determine credibility. A peer-reviewed source has been checked for reliability and accuracy by selected professionals from the source’s field. Finding help can be as easy as making an appointment at the Writing Studio where research experts are waiting to provide advice, support, and encouragement. If students need more help, or cannot make it to the Writing Studio, here are a few tips for locating credible sources.
Tip #1: Visit the USF Library website (students should sign in for full access) and look through the “Research Tools” selection on the upper-right part of the page. You can select “Databases by Title” if you know the name of the database you wish to search (e.g., JSTOR or Access World News) or choose “Databases by Subject” if you know your subject but don’t know the names of any specific databases. You can also click here to get started. Many of these databases are subject specific and allow students to search for peer reviewed articles by author, keyword, title, and more.
Tip #2: These databases and searches can be frustrating, especially if a student is struggling to choose a topic or locate the most useful database for their subject. When these types of frustrations threaten to become overwhelming, it may be time to ask for help. On the Library homepage, students are given the option to “Ask A Librarian.” This feature allows for students to send an email, call, or even initiate a real-time chat with specialized research librarians. This is an incredibly helpful tool for students struggling with database searches and brainstorming “search terms.”
Tip #3: Students can take advantage of many other resources on the Library homepage. From the library homepage, students can search for books, articles, and media resources that are accessible through USF (again, make sure to log in for full access). The USF Library has access to a huge selection of potential source material and is capable of requesting any materials not housed in our library through Inter-Library Loan and Uborrow. The Library research page includes citation help, subject guides, and information on how to find books, articles, and even provides access to digital collections. All students should spend time familiarizing themselves with the resources provided on this page!
While finding credible sources can be a daunting task for undergraduate students, with these tips, and a little perseverance, a wide array of credible research is close at hand. Thanks to the library here at USF, research success is easily attainable!