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Academic Writing: Seems Legit

There are a number of websites that are available when doing research for a paper or project. You can Google any phrase and buckets of information come pouring out. 

It is easy, though, to get caught up in the volume of information and forget that not everything you read on the internet is true. When using any kind of internet-based research, it is important to use sources that contain information that can be verified by another legitimate source. 

What are considered legitimate sources, you ask?

Legitimate sources are places you find information that are, in a word, trustworthy. Here are a few sources to start you down the right road to academic research:

1. Primary sources provide first-hand information and are, as a rule, the best and most verifiable of all sources. Primary sources are original documents, works of art or other tangible things that were created during the frame of time that you are researching. Primary sources can also include academic or research works that provide new evidence or scientific findings on the topic you are researching, or can be directly quoted interviews (so long as the interviewee is someone qualified to discuss the topic at hand).  

Example: The Diary of Anne Frank would be an excellent primary source for research on life during the holocaust. However, the Hollywood film, Schindler’s List would not.

2. Secondary sources are works that evaluate and discuss a primary source, or combine to discuss several sources. These works often include summaries, analysis, pictures or personal interpretations of a primary source. While often reliable, secondary sources are at least one step removed from a primary source. What does “one step removed” mean? In short, it means that the information presented that discusses the primary source is valid, and can be verified by another legitimate primary or secondary source.

Example: For academic purposes, your class text can be an excellent secondary   source. They are often well researched, well written, have been reviewed by peers and accepted by the scholarly community. If the thought of using textbooks makes your eyes glaze over with boredom, other secondary source options include encyclopedias, articles and certain documentaries. 

For research and academic writing, these two types of sources should be used to support your thesis. Seriously. If what you’ve found falls outside of the primary or secondary source definitions, seems poorly written, or just generally seems like it won’t pass muster, scrap it. Just get rid of that bad boy and find another source. Although finding another may seem like adding work, your grade will thank you!  

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