Credibility: Identifying Reputable Sources for Papers and Projects

How Long Does Research Take?

How long the research process takes varies by:

  • the nature of the assignment
  • how well the topic is covered in 'the literature'* (i.e., books, journals and other sources)
  • what materials are available in our library or online
  • the length of time allotted for the assignment
  • the expertise of the researcher (i.e., what you know about the topic).

Things to keep in mind:

  • Start early so that you can revise your strategy or your paper if necessary. 
  • Some topics will have a huge amount of material available, while some will have little. 
  • If you need background material,subject encyclopedias may give more specific detail.
  • Conducting research normally takes longer than you expect.

Frustration and backtracking are a normal part of the process. However, reference librarians can show you strategies that can save you time and can help you do your research more effectively. Ask at the Desk, through Ask-a-librarian, by phone 575-6645, text to 479-385-0803 or email for assistance.

You can use the Research Paper Wizard (also called Hogworthy) to help plan the sequence and find sources.

*This is the published material about the topic. It is not "literature" as in fiction or drama, although there is literature about the field of literature, too.

What Makes Authority?

Most people who are considered authorities:

  1. Have studied topic X a long time, and in detail.
  2. Hold degrees or other credentials that represent that study
  3. Use sound and reputable research practices
  4. Work with people who recognize their standing
  5. Have been cited in the literature of their field(s), and not for their mistakes
  6. Work at places that have good reputations in that field
  7. Are better known in their own field(s) than in general. Neil deGrasse Tyson may be an exception to the rule.
  8. There are exceptions, just as in anything, but this is the way to bet.