You have just been given your assignment only to learn that you must do research and find the most terrifying thing of all, scholarly sources. Delving into the world of research can be scary. Gone are the days of high school where sources barely matter and citations are an unknown concept. Now, sources must be peer reviewed, varied, and extremely relevant. Make no mistake, if you can't source it, you can't say it. The quality, or lack thereof, will make or break your essay. It is not only the blood of your piece, but the bones, muscles, and organs of it. Without good sources your work will fail, but if you manage to get them the rest becomes easy.The following is a survival guide for the world of research, and contained within are 4 tips that if implemented properly, will ensure your success.
1. First and foremost, before you can begin your research, you must understand these new words your professor has introduced to you such as "scholarly", and "peer reviewed". Undoubtedly your Professor has discussed the subject with you, but in case you can't find those notes or they just don’t make sense, here is a quick review. In almost all of your classes you will need at least one scholarly source. In order to determine whether or not your source is scholarly, you must assess whether or not your article has been peer reviewed. Peer review is a process in which any scholarly piece, in order to be published, must be evaluated by 3 experts in the field. These experts assess the paper and determine its credibility and its merit. If your source is not peer reviewed there is no guarantee that the information it contains is accurate. Further ways to assess your sources include looking at whether or not it contains the Author’s personal credentials, and/or has a connection or affiliation with a recognized academic institution. If your source is peer reviewed and contains either of these things, you have found a scholarly source.
2. Now that you know what you are looking for you have to know where to find these sources. There are countless databases and resources on the internet with confusing search algorithms, and complicated procedures that you may not even have access to. I recommend as a start to begin on Google Scholar as it is fast and simple and, if nothing else, will get you started and show you if there is information on the topic or not. Once you have exhausted Google Scholar you should go to the YorkU library website and search through their databases. While some can be complicated and may only pertain to certain fields, there are some like Jstor that are useful for broader research. One thing nobody ever mentions is that a scholarly source doesn’t always have to be a journal or a book. While this is most often the case, don’t limit yourself to only these sources. Medical and academic websites will often have pages that have been peer reviewed and may be exactly what your project needs.
3. Once you have found an assortment of sources from Google Scholar, the library databases, and peer reviewed websites, make sure you read through them entirely. Reading the title and the abstract is not enough as the arguments made or the author's point of view often evolves and changes throughout their piece, and while you might think they are supporting one thing, they may in fact be supporting another. Don’t leave this part undone until the last day either. The last thing you want is to have to read 5 journals and a book right before you start writing, only to find out none of them support what you want to say.
4. Finally, keep all your metadata. If you have read through your sources and they work, get all the sourcing information. You don’t want to have to try and find that information the night before, while trying to remember the date you accessed the source. The accuracy of your bibliography can be the deciding factor in your grade, and as you progress to higher levels it will become pages and pages long. Having all the data on any possible source you may use will save you countless hours and headaches in the future.