What are academic sources

Literature research during your studies: Find and use citable sources

You have already read my 4 step plan for your bachelor thesis. Your subject is clear. But where can you find the information you need and, above all, which information can you use? To ventilate the jungle of sources, here are a few tips for researching and citing sources:

1) Your research question

Do you know what you want to write your thesis about, but find it difficult to find a specialization? Be clear about your interests in your work. What exactly motivated you to write a scientific paper on the subject? Formulate a research question for yourself and focus all your efforts on answering that one question.

If you ask yourself the question of every source you find: "What does this have to do with my research question?" It will be much easier to find and evaluate the individual sources. There is far too much exciting information that you cannot possibly process all in your bachelor thesis. The challenge is not to find a lot of literature per se, but to separate relevant information from irrelevant information and sort it out.

2.) Tips from Prof

Your professionals can help you! This person is an expert in writing such work and has access to information that is still hidden from you. So don't be shy and ask for literature, possible contact points and authors who are recommended for your topic. Here you will find tips on how to help your professor to help you.

3) Find literature

Now it is time to find a wide variety of literature on the topic. First of all, you should set yourself keywords to narrow down the procurement field. Sit down and write down what you definitely want to cover in your work. This is best done with bullet points. You will probably find the most important keywords in the title or your research question.

Then the easiest and fastest way to search the Internet is with these keywords. Google Books and Google Scholar are very helpful in this. Often the excerpts displayed are sufficient to be able to quote. So it is not necessary to have every source quoted physically in front of you. However, should that be the case, e.g. because the relevant book pages are blocked in the preview, library databases such as KVK will help you to record the location and availability of the publications as quickly as possible. This allows you to search for literature in all of the larger academic libraries, some of which are far away, and in some city libraries at the same time. You can even choose whether you want to search only in Germany or internationally. The results are displayed according to regions, i.e. you can first follow up on the hits in your region or state: Which library has what you are looking for? Can it be borrowed there? Can you order it? Can you take it home?

Through interlibrary loan, your Unibib can fetch your book from another library and make it available to you. You can also suggest new acquisitions to your university library, and in an emergency, Amazon is always a good way to get specialist literature quickly. Some books should be named by every student anyway, e.g. Scientific writing made easy by Prof. Kornmeier.

You should also look into subject-specific literature databases such as WISO, GESIS, Statista etc. As a student, you can also download loads of literature for free as an e-book, e.g. from Springer. You usually have full access to it via the university network and you can also log in from home using a VPN client.

4) Sort out your literary chaos

Now that you've sunk into tons of springs, it's time to separate the wheat from the chaff. Sort your information! This works best with categories. With the help of the key points you have already made, you can filter your relevant sources. It is helpful to find the origin, especially with internet sources, because these are mostly dynamic and can change. It is also particularly advisable to use the latest edition of a text in the event that the author has added to his findings or has drawn up new ones.

It is also good if you already have a rough outline of your work at this point. So you know how much space you have for the individual chapters and which theories and models to look for. You can find tips for creating your outline here.

5) What can I quote?

Important: A source must be verifiable, i.e. publicly accessible and ideally represented by an institution!

Due to the infinite possibilities of the Internet, it has become more difficult to find the right verifiable sources that are also suitable for citation. Yet there are some clues that you can follow. Source rankings at Google Scholar can give you an initial overview of how often this source has been cited; the more, the better it is suitable for citing.

The same applies to scientific journals (example for business administration), the higher the ranking, the more recommendable for quoting. At least one shouldn't get too much wrong with that. Bachelor or master theses are not suitable for quoting. However, they are still useful for literature research, as you will find the basis of their findings in the bibliography, on which you can also build.

Good to know?! On some pages, mainly scientific blogs, there are discussions whether and how social media can and can be used as a source of citation. Since there is no uniform guideline about this yet, you should avoid citing such data as a source of information. Unless your research explicitly refers to it. Of course, working on hate comments and cyberbullying makes little sense if you don't quote the research object itself.

So what can and cannot be quoted depends largely on the topic of your work. Not all sources have to depend on scientific studies, not all statements have to come from high-ranking scientists. You see, there is a reason your research question is at the top here.

6.) Quote correctly

You can read about the citation rules and the best way to quote in my next article. If you need to know exactly and quickly, you should get Scientific Writing Made Easy. This is really worth gold. In addition, reference management programs such as Citavi or Zotero can make your life as a scientist: a lot easier. And even in Word, scientific writing is a breeze if you know how the program works properly:

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