Chances are pretty good that at least one of your assignments this semester will involve writing a research paper. It’s pretty easy to conduct research on the Internet, never leaving your home, but it just might be the lazy way. With a little effort and resources beyond the Internet, you can make your paper stand out from all the others with direct quotes from subject matter experts, your own photographs, and genuine personal experiences that can never be matched digitally.
Discover 10 research sources you should consider, including the Internet.
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 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. Many libraries also have a historian on staff.
Books are forever, or almost, and there are so many different kinds. Be sure to consider all of them:
- Reference Books
- Collections of Quotations
- Atlases and Maps
- 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.
Magazines are another source for both current and historic news. Magazine articles are generally more creative and reflective than newspaper articles, adding a dimension of emotion and/or opinion to your paper.
6. Documentaries and DVDs
Many fabulous documentaries are available online, or on DVD from your bookstore or library. Customer reviews of many DVDs are also abundant on the Internet. Before you buy, check out what others think about a program.
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.
If you live in or near a city, you’ve probably got access to at least one museum. Larger American cities, of course, are home to some of the most famous museums in the world. When you study abroad, museums are one of your most valuable stops.
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.