Guest Author - Rebecca Graf
Not just any source will be good for a research paper. Just because a book, website, or video says what you want does not mean that it should be part of your bibliography. You need to be very selective in what you use as a source in an historical research paper.
The purpose of a bibliography is to list your sources. The purpose of doing so is to show your readers where information was obtained and to allow verification and more in depth studies to occur of your research topic. A source that is not credible or reliable tarnishes the writerís credibility. Therefore, extra care has to be given to your sources.
Books are generally a reliable source. In years past, not just anyone could publish a book. Deep scrutiny was given to any book published either by the publisher or by the academic world. Today, that has changed. Books can be self-published. This can lead to bad information being published in book format. The best way to determine if a book is reliable enough to be a source for your research paper is to research the book.
Check out the author. How many books has he published? What do reviews say about his work? If there are reviews written that question the validity of his work, you might want to reconsider using this source.
Check out the bibliography. If there is no bibliography, stay away from this book. How reliable are the authorís sources? If they have numerous references and many of the works are well known in the academic area, this book could be a good source.
Video clips can be sources for a research paper. The same research that you do for books should be done for video clips as anyone can post a video on the web. Who sponsored the video? Was it a well known cable channel or university? What is the reputation of the ones behind the video?
The most scrutiny should be given to anything obtained from the Internet. Literally anyone can post on the Internet, and what they put there does not have to be at all accurate. Trusting every source on the Internet is not good research practice. Look at the ones who are behind the website. If they are an academic site such as universities or sites dedicated to subject matter with well-known support, they probably are trustworthy.
Many people try to use sites that are frequented such as online encyclopedias. No encyclopedia should ever be used as a research paper source whether it is online or is hard copy. What you can do is use the bibliography of the site. Some of the online encyclopedias have their own bibliography. Use those sources to do further investigation and to possibly add to your own resources.
Do not neglect sites that contain ebooks or scanned copies of older books. This can be great when it comes to historical research papers. Sites such as archive.org, Google books, the Gutenberg project, and even the Nook and Kindle ebooks are great to find many books including primary sources.
Never take your sources for granted when compiling an historical research paper. Always treat your sources with respectfully and verify the solidity of each one of them. Remember that without sources, your paper has no solid foundation.