Know the Quality of Your Source Before You Cite

The plethora of information on the internet that can be accessed with just a few clicks of a mouse may be overwhelming. Typing almost any topic into an online search engine will generate a multitude of various sources in an instant. The ease ofresearch today is especially useful to college students, who can avoid long hours of searching in libraries, but the simplicity in finding information must be balanced with the ability to determine the quality of the source.
Research papers written for college level classes should only use academic sources. A strong argument is best supported by factual information. Finding these sources is the key; the term “peer-reviewed” is always a good start. This means a work written by a professor, scientist, historian, etc. has been read by several of their peers, facts have been validated, and any errors have been addressed. Remember peer editing in junior high and high school? This is similar, at a higher level.

Peer-reviewed articles and book reviews can easily be found in academic journals. College and university libraries have great volumes of these journals, usually with free online access to students. Explore your schools library website; there is usually an option to refine the search to include only peer reviewed articles. Search the archives, or if you are having trouble, ask a librarian.
Wikipedia is not an academic source. Browsing the articles on Wikipedia can be a great source for personal knowledge, but referencing the site as a source in a research paper is not appropriate. Anyone can edit an article on Wikipedia, change information, or add information that may not be correct.
For the sake of your work, and your education, leave Wikipedia for the quick searches. Spending a little more time finding sources that are factual will leave you with stronger arguments, and probably better grades.
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