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TCC Library: Choose a good source

Library "How do I...?"

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Choosing sources

Whenever you write anything that is intended to convince, inform, or advocate, you should think about your audience and the type(s) of sources that audience finds convincing. For many of the papers you write in school, your audience is academic — meaning your instructor and other students.

As a student, you have one major advantage — your audience is readily available. If you have questions about the types of sources your instructor would like to see, you can (and should) ask!

This is especially true when you are writing in an unfamiliar field. Different disciplines have different expectations when it comes to evidence. Don’t assume that because you know your way around scholarly sources in one field, that another field will work the same.

Here are a few general principles to guide you:

  • Your professor probably wants to see that you can evaluate an issue thoroughly from multiple perspectives. Your sources should show that you have done so.
  • To academic audiences the best sources are the books and articles that other people use to generate new questions and new research.
  • If you see a source mentioned a lot by other sources, that source is probably an important one for you to consider.
  • In most academic fields research is primarily reported in peer-reviewed or refereed journals.
  • In some fields you will also find research in government publications.
  • And in some fields, particularly in the arts and humanities, you will find a lot of research in books.
  • The credentials and authority of the author are also important in academic writing.

Library "How do I?" credits

The TCC Library "How do I?" guide is adapted from the Library DIY project created by Meredith Farkas, Amy Hofer, Lisa Molinelli and Kimberly Willson-St. Clair at Portland State University Library. Several Library "How Do I?" pages are adapted from pages within the Portland Community College Library "How do I" project, as well as the Oregon State University Libraries' Library DIY project.

CC BY SA license

Except where otherwise noted, the content in these guides by Tacoma Community College Library is licensed under CC BY SA 4.0.
This openly licensed content allows others to cite, share, or modify this content, with credit to TCC Library. When reusing or adapting this content, include this statement in the new document: This content was originally created by Tacoma Community College Library and shared with a CC BY SA 4.0 license.

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