Chances are pretty good that at least one of your assignments this semester will involve writing a research paper. It's easy to conduct research on the Internet, but don't let that ease keep you from using the nine other sources we've listed for you here. There's nothing like a direct quote from a subject matter expert. Surprise your teacher by using sources other students might not think of using.
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1. The Internet
The Internet has changed everything about how we research papers. From your own home, or your cubicle at the library, you can learn almost anything. Try different keywords when Googling or using other search engines, and remember to check out podcasts, forums, even YouTube. It's important to keep a few things in mind:
- Not everything you read on the Internet is accurate or true.
- Many pages are not dated. You may have to dig deeper to learn how current the info is.
- Wikipedia is not always reliable information. Use it, but double check your information.
- Don't rely solely on the Internet. The information you learn using the other nine options here might surprise you.
Here are just a few websites to get you started:
Libraries are still one of the very best places to learn about anything. Librarians are always on staff to help you find the information you need, and many have specialties that may relate to your topic. Ask. Get a tour of the reference section. If you need help using the library catalog, ask. Most are now online.
See Grace Fleming's article: Using a Library
Books are forever, or almost, and there are so many different kinds. Be sure to consider all of them:
- Reference Books
- Atlases and Maps
- even the Yellow Pages
Find books in your school library, county library, and bookstores of all kinds. Be sure to look on your own bookshelf at home, and don't be afraid to borrow from friends and relatives.
Newspapers are the perfect source for current events and up-to-the minute news. Most libraries subscribe to all the top national papers, and many papers are available in online editions. Vintage newspapers can also be a wonderful source of history.
Check with the reference librarian in your favorite library.
7. Government Offices
Your local government offices can be a very useful source of historical data. Much of it is a matter of public record and available for the asking. Call ahead to make sure you'll be accommodated when you arrive.
Talk to a curator, take a tour, or at the very least, rent an audio tour. Most museums also have printed information you can take with you.
Visit museums respectfully, and remember that most do not allow cameras, food, or beverages.
9. Zoos, Parks, and Other Such Institutions
If you're lucky enough to be near an institution or organization designed for the study or preservation of something, and that something is the topic of your research paper, you've hit pay dirt. Zoos, marinas, conservation centers, hatcheries, historical societies, parks, all of these are valuable sources of information for you. Check an online directory or the Yellow Pages. There may be places you've never heard of.
10. Local Experts
Interviewing a local expert in your topic is one of the very best ways of getting both knowledge and interesting quotes. Call and ask for an interview. Explain your project so they understand what is expected. If they have time, most people are more than willing to help out a student.
Learn from Tony Rogers: The Basics of Conducting Interviews