I can’t find good sources for my research paper.


Collecting sources for a research paper can sometimes be a daunting task. When beginning your research, it’s often a good idea to begin with common search engines, like Google, and general descriptions like you can find on Wikipedia. Often though these are not the sources you ultimately want in your paper. Some tips for getting from this beginning research to finding “good” sources include the following.

  • Make a list of research terms you can use when searching in the library or even online. Start with your core list, but also add other keywords and phrases that you notice as you research.

    Also, when you find a good source, look to see if it has “tags.” You can add these phrases to your list search terms. Sometimes the tags are also links that you can follow which will take you to lists of similar sources.

  • Think about the kind of sources required by the assignment and also the kind of sources that are “good” for your question or topic. Many library search engines and databases have the option to return only “peer-reviewed” or “scholarly” sources—which are sources that have been read by other scholars before being published.  Also, the UofL library offers a list of Research Guides which can help you find useful databases for finding sources.

    When considering what counts as a “good” source, it’s smart to consider what question you’re asking. If you’re making an argument about how a term is commonly understood, then using dictionaries or Wikipedia would be a good source. If you’re making an argument about developing research in Psychology, then you’ll want to focus on those peer-review or scholarly sources.

  • Review the works cited or bibliography section of sources that have already been helpful. The sources they are using will probably be helpful to you also. Some search engines, like Google Scholar, include a link under a source that says “Cited by”—which brings back a list of other sources that have used the source you’re looking at. Google Scholar provides varying quality in their results, depending on the subject area and other things, but it’s a great place to start.

  • The reference librarians in Ekstrom library are available to help you with your research. You can make appointments to meet with them here. During these appointments, they can help you find the most helpful databases, decide what sources might be most helpful, and more.

What can the Writing Center do to help?

Writing Center consultants can meet with you to help you get started and find a good direction when working on a research project. This includes but certainly isn’t limited to brainstorming lists of research terms, deciding which kinds of sources will best help you answer your research question(s), looking at some preliminary helpful sources, and more. Talking about these topics can help you figure out how to approach searching for and finding good sources.