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Using Sources

Using Appropriate Sources

Using a variety of sources in your writing is an important skill to develop throughout your academic career. When writing research papers, you are required to take a position on a given topic and then argue that position. To do so effectively, you need to find information on the topic and then use that information to inform your position (your thesis statement). In other words, when you argue your position in your paper, you will include those sources that support what you're arguing. 

Your sources could include:

  • books
  • journal articles
  • newspapers & magazines

  • websites
  • films
  • images

  • surveys & numerical data
  • experiments & interviews

Incorporating appropriate sources into your writing requires a number of key skills:


Being thoughtful about the sources you choose.


Carefully considering how and where you include sources within the body of your paper.


Giving proper credit to those sources.

Joining the Scholarly Community

As a student at Sheridan College, you are joining the scholarly community within your selected field. This means that you will learn from the research and writing (also known as the scholarship) of others that came before you. This is why you are often assigned readings in your classes and asked to include sources in your writing. As a college student, you are considered to be a scholar because you build on the research and writing that already exists in your field through your own assignments.

It is important to understand that academic study or scholarship means having a conversation within an academic community or field. Since scholarship is built on the previous research of others, all scholarship within that area is connected. Scholars (including you as a student) show this connection by referring to the work of others within their own work. This work includes the words and ideas of others and these in turn help to develop and deepen existing knowledge. As a student, you engage in your scholarly community by understanding the work that was done before you and you must be prepared to use it to help form or guide your own work.

When you use the words and ideas of others in your own work, you must cite it properly. Otherwise, your professor will consider this to be plagiarism.

Watch: What is the Scholarly Conversation?

Questions to Ask Yourself

As you read through the sources you find, don't just pick the first thing that suits your need! Ask yourself:

  • Does the source provide background information or add to my understanding of the topic?
  • Does the source support or strengthen my research topic or argument?
  • Does the source provide a counter argument that I can use to argue against?
  • Is this source appropriate for academic research?


When using a source in your assignment, you should be able to clearly explain to the reader why the source appears in your paper and  specifically what it adds to your research topic or argument.