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Open Educational Resources (OER):
You will need to find credible sources to support your argument or point of view, or to gather background information, for virtually every paper you write as a college student. Remember, your paper is only as credible as your sources!
Doing thorough research and using credible sources will:
Typically, a goal in academic writing is that you learn something new or look at things in a new way. Writing about your opinion, your beliefs, or about something you “just know” without providing sources to back up your stance is not usually sufficient in academic writing. Demonstrating that you are able to identify credible resources and incorporate the ideas you learn from them will help you earn better grades!
Non-fiction material is based in fact (usually supported with research, evidence, and/or observation), rather than creative. Generally speaking, a non-fiction source is preferred in a research paper. Examples of non-fiction types of literature/media would be news, biography, history, art, religion, cooking, and more.
Fiction material is created from imagination, and will usually consist of characters that aren't real people, character development, a plot/story, conflict, and resolution. Typically, it is not advisable to use a fictional source in a research paper, unless it is used to illustrate a point, to explain a source of inspiration, or your paper is in some way about a particular fictional source(s). Examples of fictional literature/media would be mysteries, romances, fantasy, scifi, most graphic novels, plays, and more.
It is possible, especially in literature or humanities-type studies, that the examination of one or more fictional resources (or aspects/elements within them) is the topic of a paper. In these situations, it is acceptable to use appropriate and relevant fiction as sources with proper citation. Ideally, your conclusions or arguments would be supported with non-fictional sources as well.
In the Nicolet College Library, call numbers beginning with P are fiction, except for language studies, literary criticism and author biographies. A call number beginning with anything other than P is non-fiction.
Some non-fiction topics are not generally considered valid by the scientific community at this point in time. These topics may be interesting for personal study, but are likely not appropriate for your research project. Examples include:
If you were considering an above topic or something similar, talk to your instructor first before going any further in the research process.
Consider all of the following criteria (CRAP):
Determine the publisher and its reputation in academics. Corporate publishers will have a vetting process prior to publication that gives some assurance of scholarly credibility, but self-published sources typically lack that process. For websites, see the “websites” tab for a table of extensions and the associated level of reliability.
Determine the author’s credentials, if they have demonstrated expertise, their reputation in the field, and/or their affiliation with a reputable research institution such as a university or hospital, or government agency. For websites, look for an "about us" page, contact information, and an indication of the mission of the organization. Be extremely skeptical of any source if you can’t determine the author.
Examine the word choices and imagery used in the source. Indicators of informational sources include:
Often stories and images with words circulated on social media are outdated, very heavily biased, blatantly false, or refer to an issue, problem, or situation that has been resolved or no longer exists. It is very important to fact check any story or image before accepting it as current or true. See the social media tab for more information.
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