Research Paper: Selecting Sources

Contributor: Delaine Thomas. Lesson ID: 12334

No one likes to be known as a liar or unreliable. We all like to trusted and taken at our word. When writing, if your sources are reliable people will believe what you write. Learn to discern sources!



English / Language Arts
learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


Books and magazines and Internet sources are everywhere! How do you decide which sources are the best ones to use for your research paper?

When you are gathering information for your research paper, it is very important that you use credible sources.

That means that the source is considered to reliable and will tell the truth in their writing, and is an expert in his or her field. You also want to keep the number of sources to no more than four for now, so you want to make sure you select the best four.

Before you continue, if you overlooked, or need to review, the previous Research Paper Related Lessons, find them in the right-hand sidebar.

There are many ways to decide if a source is reliable. Take out a piece of paper and pencil. As you watch How to Know If a Source Is Reliable by Shmoop, write down some of the suggestions they make to help you decide if a source is reliable:


More than likely, you will go to the library to find materials to use for your research paper. The librarian is there to help you. He or she can teach you how to use the card catalog if the library has one, or to use the online catalog that you access through their computers. They can also show you how to find the books on the shelf. For the most part, you will be using nonfiction books, so you will be looking for books that have a number on the spine of the book like 398.2. These are informational books and the librarian can show you where these are found.

They can also show you where the reference books are in the library. These are books such as atlases, almanacs, dictionaries, and encyclopedias. These are also non-fiction books that have a wide variety of information that may be useful to you in your paper. Try to use the most current edition of these books, such as up-to-date maps and weather patterns, because some of the information will change. They could also contain events that have occurred since the last edition was written.

When selecting sources, you want to check out the authors, making sure they are reliable. They should be well-respected in their field of study and should cite their sources. This means they will have a list of where they got their information.

The last thing you want to check is when the book was written. You wouldn’t want to use a book written in 1850 on the latest medical practices, because medicine has come a long way since then. You would need to have a more current book.

The most important thing to remember is that when you put your name on a piece of writing, you want the reader to know you can be relied upon to give true, credible information. You want people to know that you are truthful and can be relied upon to check your sources.

Continue to the Got It? section for some interactive practice and an overview of the Dewey Decimal System.

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