All You Need to Know About Research Paper Sources

Writing a research paper requires a lot of work, focus, and determination. It usually involves studying and reviewing previous works of those within your field of discourse. Students must engage in thorough research studies to develop feedback on their research.

These previous works include research papers, books, essays, reviews, opinion pieces, case studies, and the thesis of authority figures. Studying these works enables students to build their understanding and knowledge in their research. It also builds in-depth thinking and further leads to realizing existing loopholes in the study area.

These works written and authored by previous researchers act as the sources for research paper writing. They are the tools students use to develop their research. They inform and guide your writing process.

What is an academic source for a paper?

An academic source is any work written by scholars in a given discipline that guides your research process. Academic sources serve to give you more insight into your area of study. Research paper sources are not meant to be copied. Instead, they educate, inform and help you develop new thoughts in the area.

Academic paper sources are either primary, secondary, or tertiary sources. However, all sources work perfectly while writing a paper.

Types of research sources

There are various types of research sources. The type of source is determined by how it’s gotten. Here are the three main types of research sources to know:

  1. Primary sources

A research source is primary when it provides first-hand information on a topic. Primary sources are interviews, surveys, diaries, panel discussions, focus groups, and many more. Primary sources take longer to collect, but most researchers prefer them when they need an all-inclusive assessment of their study area.

  1. Secondary sources

Secondary sources are usually an overview of primary resources collected over time. They are mostly books, articles, journals, encyclopedias, textbooks, and other academic resources.

  1. Tertiary sources

There are three subcategories of tertiary sources: abstracts, indexes, and databases. Abstracts are for summarizing information from primary sources. Indexes deal with bibliographical data, while the database stores copies of essential materials online.

What makes a good academic source?

Before you decide on selecting a piece of written material as a source for your research, it must have fulfilled several criteria, including:

How to find sources for a research paper: finding credible sources

Many students have issues finding relevant sources for their research. As such, without the availability of sources, your research won’t take shape. Sometimes, this is because students are looking at the wrong places. Other times, it’s a result of not knowing where to look.

Here is how to find sources for your research paper:

If your reason for research is to get new information from an area, using any of these means helps you develop sources.

Academic search engine research is the easiest way to find sources today. Practically all the information you need for research is stored online. Most times, you’ll even find primary sources online. Some academic search engines are: Mendeley, Refseek, BASE, and Google Scholar.

Using the library is still a viable way to find research sources. Depending on how many sources for a research paper you need, libraries are helpful places to begin.

How to cite sources in a research paper: citation styles

Citing research sources is essential when writing a research paper. It’s the difference between plagiarized and original research. It’s also the difference between shallow and in-depth research. Before citing a research paper, make sure you know the referencing style of your discipline. There are:

Once you know which is recommended for your discipline, follow its reference format and cite your sources.


Research sources improve the quality and authority of your research. They inform readers that you have done thorough work to put the research together. While it is important to know research sources, you must also learn how to integrate research sources into a research paper for a distinct result. So, ensure you discuss with your supervisor or professor to identify the best ways to integrate research sources accurately.

Back to Topback to top