How to Find Sources for Your Essays



It's the task you have been dreading: you think to yourself, “I need four sources and the paper is due tomorrow. I don't even know where to look!” Well, that is where the RWC comes in to help you out. Finding sources can be a time-consuming process, but it is a requirement for many of the essays you will write. So, where should you start?


Let's break down some steps into a good ol' fashioned list.

  • Determine keywords regarding your topic

  • Since you are hypothetically (not actually) writing about prohibition, think of some keywords. Of course, your topic itself are keywords: prohibition 1920s, but also think of some additional keywords to add: prohibition 1920s crimes, prohibition, prohibition politics, prohibition police, and so on.

  • Now with these keywords in mind, it is time for you to search through databases and academic sources. What sources/websites should you search?

  • Search websites that end in .gov (official government sites) and .edu (official education sites - usually from universities).

  • Do not always trust .org, .com, or .net sites. These can bought by anyone and may turn out to produce biased information. Be wary of blogs that don't end in .edu

  • Search major news sources and their websites; for example: Time, Washington Post, NPR, the New York Times, the New Yorker, and so on. Double check with your instructor if newspapers/magazines are acceptable sources for your paper. If you Google these newspapers/magazines, you may be asked to subscribe, so that's where research databases come in!

Do not be intimidated by research databases. Yes, there are many, but let's figure out how to find them and navigate through them.

1. Go to reedleycollege.edu

2. On the top right corner, click LIBRARY

3. On the righthand side, under the heading that says LIBRARY, click RESEARCH DATABASES. (Quick Link: https://reedleycollege.libguides.com/az.php)

4. Now you should see dozens of databases. Determine which databases might be the best for your topic. Are you looking for news articles? Then perhaps try Access World News. Are you looking for journal and academic articles? Try JSTOR. If you want to find a database that matches what you are looking for, use the drop-down boxes to choose the subjects you're writing about.


Other databases to get you started

  • Academic Search Complete

  • Bloom’s Literature (great for essays about a book)

  • CQ Researcher

  • Credo Academic Core Collection

  • Oxford Art Online (great for art classes)

A note about the encyclopedias that you might stumble across in the databases: they usually provide a good overview of the subject but sometimes lack citations of their own. Ask your instructor if they accept encyclopedias as sources or not. However, you can use encyclopedias to help you understand the topic. They are a good source of information and they offer an overview but refrain from using them as a source for your paper; this also goes for…. WIKIPEDIA. Whatever you do, DO NOT cite Wikipedia. Like encyclopedias, they are a good overview of a subject, but you need to rely on academic sites and peer-reviewed articles. However, look at the Wiki page's Works Cited/References section; this can give you an idea of where to look and might even directly link you to credible online articles.


An additional option is Google Scholar. This is the academic side of Google. It will link you to scholarly journals and peer-reviewed articles; it doesn't include as many features as some research databases but it is a good place to start.


And most importantly - go to the library! "But we're in the middle of pandemic." Yes, and our librarians are taking all the precautions to keep students and faculty safe and so they have transitioned into using virtual meeting spaces! Our librarians are readily available online to message or meet with on Zoom! Visit the Reedley College Library's homepage to use services like Ask A Librarian (message), My RC Librarian (drop-in on Zoom), or Library Research Assistance (to book a one-on-one Zoom appointment with a librarian to help you with your research). Also, make sure to enroll in the RC Library Canvas page for more useful resources such as amazing video walk-throughs!


(RC College services are only available to their students).