“Hidden” Sources for Research

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By Jessica Reynolds

Researching any subject can take copious amounts of time especially if you don’t know where to find credible information. Unfortunately, credible information can be extremely difficult to locate if you don’t know where to start looking. Simply sitting down at your computer and typing a keyword into the browser probably isn’t going to give you a large list of credible sources. What is more than likely going to pop up is Wikipedia, Yahoo! Answers, and dictionary definition of your keywords. Sites like Wikipedia and Yahoo! Answers are ok to look at to give you a basic idea of what you are going to research but they are not credible sources because they are platforms for anyone and everyone to voice their opinions.

Source Credibility

So what makes a source credible? Source credibility is extremely important especially if you are writing a research paper, thesis, or dissertation. Certain criteria determine whether or not a source is credible although the extent to which some sources follow these criteria varies.

Credible sources consist of the following components:

  • Author Authority- Degree information and affiliate institution accompanying the author’s name
  • Peer Review- The article you are going to reference should have been reviewed by other experts in the field. This helps to establish the authority of the author.
  • Large Bibliography- shows the author’s breadth and depth of their research that pertains to their topic
  • Published in a Reputable Scholarly Journal
  • Well Written- Obviously you don’t want o reference something that is poorly organized and not well written. If an author is unable to clearly express their ideas they likely don’t fully understand them.

SciGov_10th_logoWhere to Find Credible Sources

There are some extremely well known credible online sources but many times those may not have what you are looking for in relation to your research.  Knowing where to find information online will save you countless hours poring through useless articles and a massive headache.

Some general science sources that are available from the US Government:




One of the best places to begin your research is by going to the US Government Printing Office homepage. From there you can select the libraries tab and then do a quick search for either a repository in your area or for tangible or online articles pertaining to your subject.  This will provide you a list of federal publications as well as information how to access them online or how to obtain a tangible copy.

You can also tract down sources by checking out what are referred to as “tracer bullets”.  Tracer bullets are provided by the Library of Congress and are comprised of bibliographies and source lists that pertain to all subjects including science and technology.  The specific area you would want to target for science and technology would be the Library of Congress’ SCIENCE TRACER BULLET SERIES.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is another place to check out for credible resources. The resources are geared towards professional scientists but they are made available to the general public.

There are also online scholarly data bases that are full of credible articles. EBSCO and Directory of Open Access Journals (DOJA) are perhaps the best places to locate free articles of all topics online. A membership with Citizen Scientists League will also give you access to thousands of peer-reviewed scientific journals, and many of them will provide you will the full articles. A membership is an extremely cost effective way to gather research as many data bases will charge up to $40 an article. To become a member, visit http://citizenscientistsleague.com/membership/.

If you are still having trouble locating what you are looking for, you can also check out the Virtual Reference Desk. From there you can be directed to an array of government documents and also documents that deal with general information.


Author Bio:

Jessica Reynolds loves all aspects of science, especially astronomy and black holes. She discovered this fascination while taking a high school Physics course. She makes a living by writing, currently for scientific poster printer postersession.com, a division of MegaPrint.

This entry was posted in Best Practices, Publishing, Research Tools, Science Fair, Tools. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to “Hidden” Sources for Research

  1. Jim Hannon says:

    Actually I find quite a lot of credible sources by doing a web search. After all the web itself was developed at CERN http://public.web.cern.ch/public/en/about/web-en.html just for the purpose of sharing scientific research. Researchers are often putting their work on the web and often these papers are also published in peer reviewed journals.

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