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BIOL 1409 Ertle SE: Research for Persuasive Papers

How to Find Sources

For BIOL 1409, you will be asked to write several short persuasive papers on the science topics assigned by your instructor. You will need to find high-quality sources that back up what you think and cite them in your paper. Library databases are the best option for this because they are efficient (saving you time) and contain high-quality information (saving your grade). Below are some resources to help you find your sources, but if you have questions, please Ask a Librarian!

Helpful Databases for Your Persuasive Paper Topics


A Guide to Using the Library Databases


Evaluate Potential Resources with the CAARP Test

Evaluating your information sources is crucial. Low-quality resources lower the quality of your paper and can lead to errors. The five factors of the CAARP test will help you evaluate the books, journal articles, and websites you come across in your research.


Run all of your potential sources through the CAARP test by evaluating each resource by these criteria:

Currency: Recent information is informed by the full range of research on your topic. If two resources are similar, choose the newer one. A good rule of thumb is to try to find information less than 5 years old.

Authority: If the author is not an expert (advanced degree and/or works in that field), the source is less credible. Google the author to try to find their credentials and work background. This technique is called lateral reading and is often used by professional fact-checkers.  

Accuracy: Is someone other than the author evaluating the information before publication to make sure it is correct and the conclusions the author draws are valid? When your professors ask you to find a peer-reviewed resource, they want you to use an article from an academic journal. These articles are written by experts and evaluated by other experts before they are published. Peer-reviewed articles are easily found using the filters in library databases. If you use any resource outside of a peer-reviewed journal, you will personally need to evaluate the information for accuracy. This can be harder to do if your potential sources do not have a reference list.

Relevance: You want sources that are the best fit for your topic and are written at the right level for what you need. Give preference to articles that focus on your topic rather than just mention it.

Purpose: Be careful about biased sources. You are looking for sources that inform rather than persuade or sell. An easy way to find more neutral sources is to use library databases.

Make sure you download the handout linked above so you can apply the CAARP test while you are researching. Your job as a researcher is to find the best sources you can. If you are having trouble, please Ask a Librarian!