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Finding Useful Resources

Now that you have your research questions, you need to decide which sources to use. Your goal in searching is to use evidence to support your points. Use multiple sources that agree or are similar to make your argument most valid. Use conflicting sources and different perspectives to help you get at the whole truth of your argument or to show the complexity of the issue. Often, the best papers are those that arise from conflicting views, because they embrace the differences by trying to make sense of them.

Primary or Secondary Source?

Primary Source: written firsthand, by someone involved in the historical event or research study. This could be a diary, journal, poem, or statistical data.

Secondary Source: often an analysis or summary of a primary source, taking the original and putting it into a more readable format. A secondary source also might add commentary or combine works.

Your research paper will be considered a secondary source because it will be your work, combining the primary and secondary sources that you find.

For most topics you choose, there will be more information available to you than you can possibly use. You need to have some strategies to search quickly and effectively, eliminating sources that are related to your topic but not useful for your specific research questions. In books, use the Table of Contents and Index to help you locate what you’re looking for. Browse through the articles in the databases by using CTRL-F to find terms within an article. After skimming a few sources, you’ll know how to decide quickly whether a source will work.

Reality Check
Different assignments may require different types of sources. A poster project may require one good book on the subject, but a research paper requires the use of many sources to compile information.

If you feel you have found the complete answer to your research question in a single source, you need to reevaluate the significance of your question. You should not be able to build a strong research paper or project around just one source.

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