How to write an academic essay: prompts for beginners

When you start researching you want to be wary of internet sources. Make sure that you only use credible sources. Search for encyclopedias if you need to define something in your introduction. This will be a much better resource than something you find online. You can of course, use search engines to help you find research but basic things that might be considered “common knowledge” which you are still expected to include in an introduction are best left to almanacs, encyclopedias, dictionaries, etc…

As you search online, pay particular attention to the extensions of the websites you are using. Look for those which end in .gov (for government), .org (for non-profit organizations), or .edu (for educational institutions). These sites will give you more reliable information and less bias than other sites. If you are looking at information on a .com (commercial) website, be cautious about what information you find. You can also use your school library and find print material such as:

  • Dictionaries
  • Almanacs
  • Atlases
  • Encyclopedias
  • Vertical files
  • Magazines
  • Newspapers
  • Guides
  • Reports
  • Government publications
  • Yellow pages
  • Directories

Most schools also have special reference material you can use when researching for your paper including the following:

  1. Online reference materials
  2. This includes academic and scholarly databases such as ProQuest, SIRS, and eLibrary.

  3. Newspaper and Periodical Indexes
  4. This includes online, and

  5. Encyclopedias
  6. This can include the Canadian Encyclopedia or the Encyclopedia Britannica

  7. Magazines or Journals
  8. The most popular and viable for research include National Geographic, Newsweek, Time, etc...

  9. Newspapers
  10. The most popular for research papers include The New York Times, BBC, Al Jazeera, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, etc...

When you research, look into public libraries as well as university libraries. See what resources are available through government agencies, businesses, or through local people in your area.

As you read the resources you find, evaluate them. Take notes on all information that is relevant. Print out pages or articles, or photocopy them if they will be of use in your paper. Take notes on all relevant information so that you can evaluate it later and organize it properly. As you are gathering resources, make sure to take down information for the bibliography including:

  • Author name first and last
  • Title
  • Place of publication
  • Date of publication
  • Publisher
  • Pages
  • URL (if applicable)
  • Date accessed

Keep these notes somewhere you can retrieve them later so that writing the bibliography and references will be easy for you.

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