The Source of All Frustration by Maggie Fruehwirth

So your professor assigned a paper and you have to have outside sources. You look up abstracts and wiki articles, maybe even go past the first page of Google results. However, you get your paper feedback and notice you have points off for sources and a note saying wiki isn’t a reliable source—what are you supposed to do now? Finding sources is three parts research and seven parts frustration. The good news? Southeast literally is paying people to help you, so here’s some places to look for next time:

Research Librarians: You know that person at the desk on the third floor of Kent library most people awkwardly avoid eye contact with on the way to the computer lab? They’re masters of research just waiting to help point students to solid sources for their work. This is a good option if you have a topic but no idea where to start looking or if you are having trouble finding exactly what you’re looking for in searches. The best part? They also have a chat option on Kent’s website under Research Help> Ask Us if you can’t make it in person or still want to avoid making eye contact with them.

Databases: Part of the money you pay Southeast goes to database subscriptions so you can explore such wonders as JSTOR and EBSCOhost. These databases are searchable online and have such glorious options as “Full Text” and “Peer Reviewed” limiters to make sure your results are actually available to read in full and are scholarly enough for your assignments. As you get more comfortable with the setup you can begin to explore hundreds of journals and publications at once. The absolute greatest thing about EBSCOhost? It cites its sources for you in pretty much whatever style you need. It’s right around 85% of the time, but that’s head-and-shoulders above other sites such as Easy Bib and Citation Machine.

Wikipedia…Kinda: I’m all for reading wiki articles to understand complex subjects (pro tip: try and set the language to Simple English, especially if the subject is loaded with terminology), but since too many people have access to the site and can modify the information, wiki isn’t a reliable source. However, you know what might be? The references at the bottom of the page! While clicking through the sources may show that information might be behind paywalls, remember to check the databases to see if you can access the information that way. Seeing the author names may also help your search; if Jimmy Crickett appears multiple times in the references and shows up under different searches about the topic, even if you can’t access the exact work mentioned, you can search his name through the databases or even Google to see if other topic-relevant work appears!

Research takes time and energy and you might not feel like you’re doing it right. Then again, if everyone was perfect at writing and research we tutors would be out of a job. The staff at the Writing Lab were in your shoes once too and have amassed a slew of tips and tricks that we’re willing to share. Sources and citation don’t have to be fun, but I think we’d all rather you come visit when you first start feeling stuck rather than an hour before the paper is due and you still can’t find anything (and that way you don’t have to run all the way back over to Kent to print. Again).