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Researching and Integrating Sources in Academic Essays

As a college student, one of the essential parts of your course is writing academic essays. Most of the time, you find it an uphill struggle. Because an excellent essay requires reading many scholarly articles, several trips to the library, hours for making notes, and dozens of sleepless nights searching online databases. While the internet can provide you with a huge pool of information, writing academic essays demands academic content. In other words, you need to research and utilize credible sources in your essay to support and clarify your ideas.

But how can you find and integrate the right academic sources for your college essay? If you want to know, then stay with us on this article. Here’s a complete guide to help you find academic sources and strategically integrate them into your essay. So, let’s get started!

What Is an Academic Source?

Before exploring our main topic, let’s understand what Academic Source means. So, a source is actually the place you find the information to back up your research argument. Academic sources – also called educational sources – help you ensure the quality and accuracy of the information you provide in your essay. For instance, if you are asked to answer “What are the social evils in your society?” you need to explore many scholarly sources to compose and support the key idea you want to deliver in your essay. These scholarly sources include academic articles, books, journals, and reports from research institutes. Moreover, these sources can provide you with authentic information about previous research in terms of reliable evidence such as facts, data, and statistics.

Importance of Researching and Integrating Academic Sources

As mentioned earlier, you need academic sources to enhance the overall quality of your essay. Educational sources don’t only give authority and credibility to your argument but also provide necessary background information about your topic or idea. The fact and figures in your essay lend credibility to your argument and give your reader the impression that your ideas are trustworthy. Therefore, before writing your academic topic, ensure you have found credible sources for your research.

Types of Academic Essay Sources

It is important to understand the different sources of information before you write your essay. So, let’s look into the types of academic sources;

1. Primary Sources

Primary sources are first-hand accounts of your research topic. You can consider them the building block of your essay. They are often unedited contents that offer a close, personal overview of a topic, such as surveys, videos, and photographs.

2. Secondary Sources

Secondary sources are those who inform and supplement the primary sources for your essay. Put simply; they interpret primary sources, e.g., dissertations, books, and scholarly articles.

3. Tertiary Sources

For organizing and compiling your writing further, you need tertiary resources. You can use encyclopedias, dictionaries, and reference books as tertiary sources for composing your academic essay.

Finding Authentic Sources For Your Academic Essay

While searching for sources, the most important thing to consider is to find up-to-date, relevant sources that resonate with your essay content. So, prior to starting your research, make sure that you consider your information needs.

Here are some sources where you can research and find authentic and credible information for your essay. Remember, each source type has a specific role in research and may be more or less useful for you, depending on your specific needs.

1. Academic Journals

The most up-to-date sources for academic writing are journals. They provide cutting-edge research material that can authorize your argument effectively.

2. Online Websites

Many educational websites, such as Google Scholar and BASE, give you access to millions of research articles, books, and documents without getting distracted by ads or sponsored links.

3. Library Database

A study revealed that US adults between 18 and 29 visited the library much more than older age groups. This is because library databases allow you to efficiently search for published information, such as well-known magazines, journals, and newspaper articles.

4. Bibliography of Secondary Sources

You can find more relevant resources in the bibliography of secondary sources. You can get an impressive list of credible sources in the journals, so take a closer look at their citations. Follow this trail of citations to seek out the primary sources to work further with for your own essay.

5. Explore Information Beyond Journals and Books

Do not limit your research to books and journals. Writing an essay is all about exploring as many credible resources as possible to make it an interesting read. So, look into a variety of resources such as audio/video recordings, interviews, and newspaper records. And try to incorporate them mindfully while writing.

Integrating Academic Sources into Your Essay

There are basically three ways to include sources in your academic writing. Let’s discuss them one by one;

1. Quoting

Quoting is the method of incorporating sources in your essay where you exactly copy the original author’s words enclosed with quotation marks. You can quote the sources when you want to analyze the author’s language or style or when it’s difficult to convey the author’s meaning in different words, such as writing definitions. Remember not to alter the quote in its original context. However, you can use brackets [ ] where you need to change it grammatically to add coherency to your overall sentence.

Moreover, according to your professor’s instruction, you must provide citations to authoritative sources in an MLA citation, APA format, or Chicago style format.

2. Paraphrasing

In paraphrasing, you explain the source’s ideas in detail but in your own words. To paraphrase a text, you need to read it carefully and note the important points. Then start rewriting that information without looking at the source. Remember, do not include your own ideas, as you don’t want your reader – your professor mostly – to become confused about which information is yours and which belongs to the source. Paraphrasing helps you integrate sources smoothly, maintain a consistent voice throughout your essay, and focus on the material relevant to your argument.

3. Summarizing

A summary is a short overview of the main points of an article or other source, written entirely in your own words. Likewise, summarizing is likely to be writing a brief overview of a broad source. Make sure that your summary is sufficiently different and much shorter than the original text. You can use summarizing strategy to provide context, central arguments, background information, or a conclusion for your reader.


In conclusion, writing an academic essay requires relevant sources. You can find information related to your essay in academic sources like journal articles, books, newspapers, online websites, etc. Not only do these sources add facts and statistics to your essays, but they also give authority and credibility to your argument. By integrating creditable sources into your academic writing, you can understand others’ opinions and theories. At the same time, you can convey your personal explanation more clearly to the reader. Therefore, researching and integrating relevant sources in academic essays are crucial if you want to establish your ethos as a good, reliable student or writer, or even researcher.