Evidence provides the backbone of any well-executed piece of academic writing. The more evidence and research you can provide to back up your argument, the better. While a broad selection of academic sources will set you up for a great argument, the quality of this evidence will also be taken into account.

In most cases, a journal article in a renowned publication is likely to be regarded more favourably than an article from a lifestyle magazine, for example.

Why use Sources in Academic Writing

The value of academic sources in your essays, reports and dissertations is just as important to you as it is to the reader or assessor, albeit perhaps in different ways.

Your research will broaden your knowledge on a subject and identify areas for further research. Making sure that you correctly reference all of the research you’ve done when you present your findings will provide a strong argument. It will also demonstrate that you can make well-informed decisions by taking a critical and analytical approach across different arguments and points of view.

In terms of your own academic record and progress, there must be a level of originality. Whichever assessment tools your university, college or training providers use, there are likely to be features which measure similarities with other work. If your submission has too many similarities to already existing publications, you may be accused, or investigated for, plagiarism. This can be taken very seriously, so make sure you honour the people who provided you with the materials for your research in order to cover your own back.

Different Types of Sources for Research

Most of the research you do throughout your education will be either primary or secondary. Primary research is that which you undertake yourself. For example, if you need to conduct interviews, focus groups or surveys to inform the basis for your project, this will be primary research.

Collating Academic Sources

 Secondary research is defined as what others have found through their own primary research. If you find a journal article which discusses an experiment the author undertook, this is secondary research. Most textbooks relating to elements of your research topic will be classed as secondary research, too.

When compiling academic sources for your assignments, especially for a literature review, you will be looking mostly at secondary research.

There are different publications relevant to different fields, such as the Harvard Business Review or the British Medical Journal, for example. Your tutors should be able to suggest some relevant journals and trusted publications to look at when conducting your secondary research.

You can use company reports, government reports and more as sources in your writing, too, although these won’t be academic, as such.

Finding Academic Sources Online

Remember to bear in mind that the internet is a forum where anybody can voice their opinions, regardless of their level of expertise on a topic.

If you use websites to find additional information to back up or counter-argue with the rest of the research, make sure you evaluate whether they are reputable.

Websites which use .gov or .org in their name are governmental organisations, non-profits, trusts and so on. More often than not, these sites can be relied on. Most educational institutions also have an online catalogue of sources for you to explore.

If you come across a blog post which has no signals of authenticity, it may not be valid evidence. Instead, if you find a point you think is worth arguing, see if you can find an academic paper or journal article which evaluates the point.

 Original Writing

 The people assessing your work will be looking for originality and strong points to discuss. Broad research should help you create the basis for a good argument.

Originality is key in academic writing. Combine a unique argument with a great structure that is easy to read, and you will be on the way to a great piece of work.

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