Complete Guide to Finding and Using Research Paper Sources

Writing a research paper is more than just writing what you know or think it should be. It is imperative that every source you use and cite is credible to avoid stating false facts. Unfortunately, while there are many credible sources for research papers, there are also unreliable sources. The challenge, then, is knowing how to differentiate between a credible and unreliable source, which can be confusing.

What are different types of sources for a research paper?

One thing is certain whether you’re using books or journals: you’re never out of information. There are several types of sources you can use for your research paper, including journals and scholarly articles. Below are the different types of sources for a research paper:

  • Journals are scholarly publications written and published by experts in a specific academic field. These papers are primarily directed at other aspects and generally report on case studies or original research. The writers of these papers review other research and findings before publishing them, making them credible sources for papers.
  • Magazines and news: you can get topic ideas from news and magazines and learn how they are being discussed in society. These papers are typically written by professional writers or journalists and directed to a general audience.
  • Books are highly credible sources of information for a research paper. That’s because while anyone can post anything online, writing a book takes thorough dedication and extensive research. Books are great for thoroughly investigating a topic; they include an overview of research on related issues.
  • Dissertations and theses: you can also gather information from an individual student’s research published when they were in a graduate program. You can trust these sources because they were written under the guidance and review of experts – that is, an academic committee.

How many sources should a research paper have?

“How many sources for a research paper” generally depends on the intensity and extensity of the research. However, generally, research papers have forty-five references on average; high-quality articles have 5+ the average number. From findings, most academic papers have twenty-five to fifty cited sources; some even go as high as 100, while some exceed. Fifty percent of papers have between twenty-five and fifty-six sources cited.

The rule of thumb when it comes to citations in research papers is that you should consider citing one source for every four sentences. Generally, the more your research, the higher the number of sources you’ll have; the minimum is 1, maximum is 911.

Understanding how to integrate sources into a research paper

Using other writers’ thoughts in your work is not bad; it is even recommended. The more sources you use, the more concise your paper will be and the higher its quality. However, you must understand how to cite sources in a research paper; improper citation is tantamount to plagiarism. Below are three major ways you can present sources in your paper to support your argument:

  • Quotations: using the writer’s exact words and putting quotation marks to indicate that they’re not yours. You’ll then cite the writer’s name with the publication date at the end of the closing quotation.
  • Paraphrasing a source means rewriting a writer’s ideas in your own words; you still need to cite the source.
  • Summarizing a source is similar to paraphrasing it, only that you use the former when you’re providing an overview of many ideas. Quotation marks are unnecessary here, but you still need to cite the source.

Guiding tips on how to find sources for research paper

There are millions of sources related to your research paper topic, but not all of them should be in it. When writing a paper, Google is an excellent place to start searching for sources, but that’s where unreliable sources are abundant. Below are tips to guide you in selecting the best source for your research paper:

  • List the research terms and keywords you want to use in your paper and start searching.
  • As you search, check for tags in the sources you find; often, these tags lead to similar sources that you can use.
  • Consider the type of sources the paper requires and which will characterize as “good” for your topic. You may want to consider your research question; let your search be around your research question.
  • Review the sources before integrating them; they should present quality information.


There is an endless stream of information on the internet, which is why learning how and where to find sources for a research paper is crucial. We believe the simple tips we’ve provided can help guide you on how to use sources in a research paper.

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