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 your write in school, your audience is an academic — your instructor.

As a student, you have one major advantage — your audience is readily available. If you have questions about the types of sources they 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’s probably an important source for you to consider.
  • In academic most 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 it in books.
  • The credentials and authority of the author are also important in academic writing.
How to PCC Students choose and evaluate sources?

Watch this video (7:39) where three Portland Community College students talk about how they consider, evaluate and use sources for their own research assignments.

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