Research Paper Source Types

Deciding on the Number of Research Paper Sources

Once you have chosen a topic, your next step is finding research paper sources. Finding suitable sources requires you to evaluate sources and spend a significant amount of time researching and reading for information. However, before you start the actual research process, you need to have an idea of the minimum number of sources needed to write an effective paper.

Determining the number of research paper sources

The first place to look when determining the number of research paper sources you need is the assignment instructions. Much of the time, instructors specify a minimum number of sources you must use for the required page length.

When the number of research paper sources is not specified in assignment instructions, there is no official or set number of sources to use. However, there are several rules of thumb you can use to guide the decision-making process.

  • For a 10-15 page paper, five to eight sources is a good range to select. When selecting research paper sources, you want to have enough to present supporting evidence to back up your argument, but not too many that your own thoughts and ideas are overtaken by them.

  • If your paper is assigned a particular word count, you can determine the number of research paper sources by dividing the first two numbers of the word count by two. For example, if your paper is required to be 2000 words in length, you would divide 20 (the first two numbers) by two to end up with 10 minimum sources.

Finding a specific number of research paper sources

Once you have determined the number of research paper topics to use, you can start searching for them. Keep in mind that you are likely to look at many, many more sources than the actual number you use. If you need 10 sources, for example, you are probably going to read through 20-25 sources before you find 10 that credible and scholarly. As you sift through and read sources, you can minimize the time you spend reading through each by reading with purpose, scanning and paying attention to subheadings.

Ultimately, you want sources that support your thesis statement, and ones that you intend to actually use in the paper. If you do not intend to use direct or indirect quotations from a source, do not count it in your total number of sources.

However many research paper sources you are required to use or decide to use on your own, make sure you evaluate sources, and develop good note-taking strategies to save yourself time and frustration when it is time to start an outline or write your rough draft.

Different Kinds of Sources

The understanding that original research is based on first-hand data (that is, not on someone else's comments or interpretations of that data), makes it necessary to distinguish between different kinds of sources.

In this section, the difference between primary, secondary and tertiary sources is explained.

Source and reference

The source is the text or other work that provides the information that is being used (whereas the actual mention of the source that is being used is called a reference). To some extent, these terms are synonymous; in several reference styles, the list of sources used in an academic text are called 'References,' for instance.

When discussing the actual function of the reference in the written text, however, it may be useful to distinguish between the terms 'source' and 'reference'.

In order to use sources efficiently and in a correct manner, writers must be able to identify the nature of each source and the reason for using it. By clarifying to themselves what kind of use they make of different kinds of sources, writers will be able to distinguish between their own contribution and the argument expressed by the sources that are being used.

It should be noted that the distinctions that are made below may be more relevant in some fields than in others. Students are advised to discuss the use of sources with their supervisors and with the library staff at their departmental library. Note, though, that all writers need to be aware of the importance of originality, in the sense of first-hand results, in scholarly writing.

How to choose sources

One of the central learning outcomes of university studies is the ability to assess information. When writing, students train their ability to decide whether a source is appropriate and how to use it.

The University Library is a valuable resource for students in need of help concerning the choice of sources:

Primary, secondary and tertiary sources

Sources can be divided into three types, depending on their proximity to the subject of study:

Primary sources

A primary source is usually a document or result that is being reported first hand. In other words, primary sources are original sources, not interpretations made by someone else.

The following often function as primary sources:

  • works of fiction
  • diaries
  • interviews
  • official documents, such as census data and legal texts
  • objects, such as archaeological findings
  • numeric data
  • corpora
Secondary sources

Secondary sources value, discuss or comment on the primary source, or on sources analogous to the primary source that is being analysed.

The following are examples of such secondary sources:

  • research articles
  • biographies
  • monographs
Tertiary sources

A tertiary sourceis a source that summarises or compiles facts and knowledge produced by someone else. Tertiary sources are often some kind of assemblage of primary and secondary sources. They are convenient for quick access to summarised facts, but not all sources that belong to this category are considered suitable for scholarly writing. For instance, it is usually not acceptable to use compilations of facts instead of reading the original sources. Therefore, students writing essays are recommended to consult their teachers on the suitability of using tertiary sources in their writing.

Sources that would be regarded as tertiary sources include:

  • textbooks
  • study guides
  • encyclopaedias and wikis
  • indexes and other classification systems

A note of caution

It should be noted that the distinction between primary, secondary and tertiary sources is not a fixed one. For instance, in an analysis of an encyclopaedic article, that text would be regarded as a primary source, and in a review of a scholarly monograph, the text under scrutiny would be seen as a primary source, although it would be used as secondary source material under other circumstances.

Examples of sources used in different disciplines

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Print Mar. 10, 2018 of http://awelu.srv.lu.se/sources-and-referencing/different-kinds-of-sources/

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