When you're looking for information or researching a topic that is not very popular, it's often difficult to find good, reliable sources of information. This is also true if you're looking for information on popular topics - but you're taking an unpopular stance on the topic. For example, you may find hundreds of good resources for global warming - but only a few if you're writing a paper arguing that global warming is natural and occurs in the Earth every few hundred years.
Here we'll provide you with several ways of finding resources you may be familiar with - and several more you may not be.
The Common Sources
Magazines: Magazines usually gloss over topics in an effort to appeal to the widest audience possible.
Journals: Journals are the same size and shape as magazines - they look exactly alike on the outside. However, a journal is written by professionals and for professionals in the field. Because of this, you will get much more reliable and in depth information than from a magazine - the information may be more difficult to decipher and extract to use in your own paper, though.
Nonfiction books: Non-fiction books provide a great reference chaulked full of resources, and are generally sorted in an easy to follow order. You may also skip to the chapter relating mostly to what you're looking for by skimming the tables of contents.
Fiction books: Fiction books do not allow for many resources, unless your paper is regarding writing techniques, character development, or is about the author. Be weary as anything presented as a fact in a fiction book.
Encyclopedias: These are a wonderful source for a quick and dirty look into just about any topic. Highly recommended. Also, there are electronic encyclopedias which contain audio and video which may help to better understand a topic - the more you understand it, the easier it is to write about!
Newspapers: Generally for recently occuring news, juxtaposing recent happens from past events, and historical perspectives from todays events, newspapers can provide an excellent source of information.
We decided to break Internet Source into its own group, since there is such a wide variety of material.
Generally speaking: The best (most trustworthy) sites will have an domain extension of .edu or .gov. Sites ending in .edu means it is an educational site, and is likely accurate data. Sites ending in .gov are government sites, and should also be accurate data. The sites will look something like: www.schoolname.edu/person/research/InterestingTopic.html and www.governmentsite.gov/data/index.html/ Notice the location of the .edu and .gov; this illustrates how to determine what kind of site you are on.
Search Engines: Using a search engine such as Google, use the main keywords to search for information. For example, if you're doing research on the Consitution of the United States of America, you would enter "history of the US Consitution" -and not "research about the Constitution of the United States." Use words that people may have used when writing their information.
Wikipedia: An absolutely great place to find thousands of topics - these are written by professional in the area in which they are writing about, and reviewed by other professionals. They are, however, available for anyone to make changes to - so if you feel something may be wrong with the information, you may want to research it further before including it as fact.
There are, of course, other sources than all the ones listed above. They may be able to provide even better information than the sources above, too! If you find yourself needing more information, try these:
People: If you're writing about The Oil Crisis in the 1970's, it may be very helpful to talk to someone who lived through it! Likewise, if you are writing about rabbits - interview someone who raises rabbits or works with rabbits. Most people are usually willing to share their knowledge with others - all you need to do is ask!
Search for the Opposite: Searching for Global Warming, but just can't find what you're after? Try a search for "Global Cooling." Opposites, while being completely different, often share in many facets of their resources. This method can prove to be difficult if you are researching "rabbit," because there is no real opposite of "rabbit," except maybe "no rabbit."
Just make stuff up: As long as it sounds good, just make up your own facts. Writing a paper about dinosaurs? How about this: "While dinosaurs have been long extinct, astronomers and scientists now believe that they did not die due to an impact with an asteroid, but rather they built space pods and decided to leave the planet on their own roughly 700 years ago. Unfortunately, they did not leave a map of where they went." We are joking! Never make up facts!
If All Else Fails - Be Your Own Resource, and Create One For Others
Now you're stuck. You need some factual data - perhaps some statistics, but can't seem to find the information anywhere. So instead of relying on someone else to have done research and written about it - it is up to you! If you're writing about a topic such as the decline of fossil fuel availability - you'll need to find statistics (preferrably from government agencies - but also industrial agencies that manage the same topic.) And from those statistics, you'll look at the numbers, determine what they mean (or make logical assumptions/guesses), and state those assumptions in your paper - including the factual statistics you used to arrive at your conclusions!
For example, for the fossil fuel paper, you could determine how many new oil wells have been drilled in the past 10 years versus how many have dried up. This could lead you to one assumption (these are not factual, only examples): With only seven new oil wells create in the past 10 years, along with three existing wells slowing their products, it seems as if abundant crude oil, and in turn the gasoline we use for fuel, may be coming to an end.
Further, you may look into what oil companies are researching and developing to further state your case. For example: The fact of lessening levels of oil is apparent even with oil companies themselves who do not admit of the upcoming crisis. With Oil Company A and B have both spent more money on researching alternative, renewable energy sources than locating new oil resevoirs to drill, there is little question that these companies know that their main product is running out - for good.
If you do create your own assumptions based on factual statistics, be sure that the statistics back up your assumption. Otherwise, your assumption is nothing more than a guess - and a wrong one.
Happy resource hunting!
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