Research Schools

5 Most Efficient Ways to Find Sources for an Academic Paper



Academic essay writing has numerous formal rules you have to follow. It's almost impossible to submit the first draft proposal and receive positive feedback. You can be one of the best essay writers in your major. Yet, your attempts may fall short if you lack support from trustworthy sources. 


One of the main elements of preparing for future research is finding a reliable, relevant, and scholarly backup for your arguments. If you think you know everything about the topic, it’s helpful to refresh your memory nevertheless. So, what are the steps of selecting efficient sources? 


Identify Your Topic

You may think, “I have to write my paper as soon as possible” and jump to creating the outline right away. Yet, you have to choose the sources that would support or refute your claim. It is easier than focusing on research questions and further study possibilities. 


This part is tricky because it requires your solid understanding of the topic you want to explore. At the same time, you can’t get the job done without analyzing relevant literature. 


You can ask your supervisor for a direction you should take. Many databases and search engines allow you to find a specific keyword or their combination. Therefore, you need to know what exactly you are looking for. 


The keywords may change during the process; it’s perfectly normal for the academic sources search. Yet, the first step is easier when you know the direction and don’t spend too much time on random requests. 


Work with Good Databases 

There’s a variety of platforms that have a vast collection of the oldest and newest academic publications. Let’s see the most popular digital options:

  • Google Scholar is a web search engine that works with scholarly literature databases. It is one of the most convenient methods of selecting sources for your paper. The engine allows you to set the publishing period range, use advanced tools, and get a quick look at all the possibilities. However, Google Scholar may be too broad for your specific topic or have no trace of the needed paper. 

  • Scopus is Elsevier's abstract and citation database with thousands of peer-reviewed sources. It focuses on the natural sciences subject field and includes book series, as well as scholar and trade journals. It is a good option for your research and quick access to top-notch publishers. 

  • PubMed Central (PMC) at the National Library of Medicine is hosted by the National Institutes of Health. The platform has been available since 1996 and contains more than 31 million references and open access publications. It is a perfect place for health care students that offers reliable, peer-reviewed sources. 

  • JSTOR is a digital library that focuses on humanities and social sciences with paid and free access to the content. You can retrieve various articles from trustworthy, peer-reviewed, and reputable journals for your paper. Without a doubt, JSTOR is one of the oldest and most convenient databases for students.

  • Wiley Online Library is an online platform that contains a vast collection of articles in natural and social sciences, as well as humanities. Although some of the content may require to be paid for, the majority of references presented there are free to read and use. 

  • Web of Science is the second biggest digital bibliographic database. It has more than 1.4 billion references across various disciplines. It is a perfect choice for any student to find a good source for their academic paper.

Using your university’s VPN, you can open access to some publications. In some cases, it is difficult to unlock paid versions, but you can also ask for the institution's assistance.


As you get down to your “write my research paper” quest, you should begin with either Google Scholar or your university’s library. Then, it would be easier for you to navigate through all websites mentioned above. 


Find Alternative Databases

Such platforms as ResearchGate or are the saving grace for any student. They present a collaborative environment where beginner authors share their peer-reviewed works and can provide you with significant insights regarding your area of interest. Some articles may not be appropriate for citation, but they can give you a necessary creative boost for further search. 


Visit Libraries

Go to your institution’s libraries and work with the repository they have. Each department has a rich collection of books and rare editions that might come in handy for your research. This option is perfect if you need a physical copy of the book, even if you use only several pages for the paper.


At the same time, college libraries provide their students with appropriate assistance when they search for sources. Don’t be afraid to ask for the help of the library representatives if you can’t make sense of the electronic databases they have. 


Watch out for Predatory Journals 

Such journals are a serious issue in the academic world. It is a new concept describing the entities that prioritize self-interest and exploit academic fields. These journals have no proper reviews and spread false or misleading information. 

How can you spot a predatory journal?

  • Pay attention to whether a journal is a member of the Directory of Open Access Journal (DOAJ), Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA), or International Association of Scientific, Technical, and Medical Publishers (STM). These organizations supervise platforms for publishing standards. 

  • Read a journal's contact information. Predatory ones often lack consistency in their info section; for instance, they put inappropriate phone numbers or suspicious email addresses.

  • Check a journal's timeline and peer-review process. Peer review is a must for high-quality scientific publications. Predatory journals tend to skip this step or offer publishing within a short period.

  • Double-check a journal’s name and its history. Some of the journals may not be as popular in your country as others, but they still are credible and eligible. Do your research not only regarding the content.


It is difficult to look for sources that will support your argument and provide evidence for your paper. However, if you have identified your topic, you can use various databases with scholarly literature. Choosing the ones that suit you, along with the alternatives, is your reliable path to completing the task successfully. Just beware of the predatory journals and you'll be good to go!