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Research Guide

How to do research for an academic paper

Types of Sources

Print resources:

Books are a great resource for finding background information and a general overview about a topic. You can search the Library Catalog to find books in the NFCC library. The Catalog Search tutorial will show you how. If you need a book that isn't in our library, we can borrow the book from another library for you through Interlibrary Loan.

Online resources:

You can search for eBooks through the Library Catalog. They can be read online or downloaded to your computer. The Catalog Search tutorial will show you how to find and use eBooks.

Database articles
The databases contain academic journals, magazines and newspapers. You can access the databases with your NFCC student ID. The Database Search tutorial will show you how to conduct a database search. 

Primary sources:
These are firsthand observations of an event. Examples include speeches, diaries, interviews, autobiographies, letters, original newspaper reports or news footage, novels, poems, statistics, results of experiments, etc.

Secondary sources:
These analyze, critique, review or explain a primary source. They are typically written by people who were not present when the event occurred, and therefore can be subject to errors of memory and personal bias. Examples include books, journal articles, textbooks, reference material, etc.

Scholarly sources:
Scholarly (or academic) sources are generally authored by professionals with significant knowledge or experience with the subject. These sources are rigorously researched and are typically the most appropriate resource type for college students writing academic papers.

Peer-reviewed sources:
These are scholarly/academic sources that have been vetted by experts before being published. These experts are very knowledgeable in appropriate subject area, and they critically evaluate the content of the source. Peer-reviewed sources are appropriate for college-level research, and sometimes your instructor will require you to use them.

Popular sources: 
Popular sources typically come in the form of magazines with easy-to-understand content. These sources are generally meant for leisure reading and often contain advertisements. They are authored by journalists who may not be experts on the subject. They can provide general information or an overview on the topic but sometimes are not well-suited for academic purposes.