Writing a research paper is never easy, but with the advent of the Internet, it’s a heck of a lot easier today than back in the days of periodicals and library card catalogs! There is infinitely more research material available, literally at one’s fingertips via the Internet and online resources than your parents or grandparents could ever have dreamed of when they went to college.
The drawback is, with so much material available, it can be quite difficult to select the right source material. Seemingly, every Tom, Dick and Harriet has a blog today, or a website containing articles about a million different subjects, and some of them may appear to be quite knowledgeable. You should refrain from using these types of sources, however, and stick with official source material from recognized institutions.
It’s All in the Extension
Almanacs and encyclopedias are always good sources, and many well recognized ones are available online, such as the Encyclopedia Britannica. Domains with extensions like .edu for educational, .gov for government and .org for nonprofit organizations are also good sources, although you might find some political bias on certain government sites.
Commercial .com sites can be excellent sources, as long as they’re not talking about a particular product which they happen to sell. Be wary of any articles found on personal pages, as these are usually unreliable. They can, however, often lead you to better sources, on the rare occasion that they include a reference or two.
A good many popular magazines and newspapers, such as Time, U.S. News, Newsweek, National Geographic, the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today and more are available online and are usually quite reliable sources of information. For quick answers you can find sites like Answers.com, and for word definitions and thesauruses you can find Webster’s and Merriam’s dictionaries and Thesaurus.com.
Be Sure to Check References
Whatever source you choose, always look for articles that contain references. Quite often there is even an embedded link to that reference. If not, it can usually be found online, at one of the .edu, .gov or .org extensions mentioned. Often the reference that is quoted in the article will prove to be a better reference than the article itself. There’s no reason you can’t use both, however, but you should always double check the original reference, whether you plan to use it as a source or not.