How to Get References for a Research Paper

Referencing, also known as a citation, is a means of recognizing and crediting someone’s work that you may have utilized in writing your paper. In writing academic and research papers, referencing is vital because it helps avoid plagiarism, a major ethical vice.

Moreover, referencing enables the papers’ readers to identify the original research sources so that they can access them and interpret the content in their own way.

Some of the most used referencing styles include MLA, APA, Harvard, Chicago, Turabian, Vancouver, AMA, and ASA. This article concentrates more effort on helping you know how to get references for a research paper.

How to Get References for a Research Paper

Before you decide on various reference sources for your research paper, it is crucial to gauge the credibility of such sources for you to write a plausible paper.

Therefore, some of the vital characteristics of a reference source that you should be keen on include the source’s currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose.

Explained below is a list of some of the most credible reference sources you could use when writing your research paper.

  • Academic Research Databases and Search Engines

Academic databases contain a significant number of academic papers, scholarly journals, and other authentic educational materials. These academic materials are a great place to start when looking for information for your research paper.

This is because experts in the subject conduct peer reviews on the information contained in the materials before they are published. The peer reviews ensure that the information used is valid.

A publication called the Journal Quality List ranks the quality of academic publications. This list helps create a high bench line for the academic journals for extra validation. As a student researcher, you can access the accounts of these databases from your educational institution or a library.

Some of the most credible academic research databases and search engines include Google Scholar, Scopus, Worldwide Science, Microsoft Academia, Virtual Learning Resource Center, Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), ProQuest, and JSTOR.

  • Scholarly Publications

Scholarly publications form some of the best reference sources in any research paper. These publications consist of research reports, data sets, scientific and academic journal articles, technical reports, and conference papers.

Such materials are written and published by certified researchers and scholars as a result of new knowledge in their specific disciplines.

One reason for making scholarly publications crucial reference sources is that different experts peer review them before their writers can publish them. The publications are also original and well-researched.

Some of the best-known examples of scholarly publications include the American Journal of Sociology, Black Scholar, Mechanical Engineering Journals, Technology and Culture, Psychology Today, and Harvard Business Review.

  • Government Documents and Websites

Government documents and websites provide presumptive information reference sources because they are prepared and disseminated by trained and trusted government officials. In addition, these federal depository libraries contain credible information databases from the various governments’ printing offices.

Some of the beneficial information to look at in the government websites and documents for your research paper include court proceedings transcripts, white papers, case studies, and statistical data.

Also check: does safeassign check references? 

More detailed information on these databases are statistics on topics such as health, housing, economic data, crime, education, housing, jobs and unemployment, environment and energy, and disability information.

Some of the notable government websites globally include, govt.NZ,,,,,,, and Other crucial websites are individual ministry websites and the national statistics bureau websites.

  • Credible News Sites

Credible news sites provide authentic reference sources for academic and research papers. Although these materials are not prepared by researchers and do not undergo peer review, they are still good sources of research papers.

These media-generated sources are written in a convenient language, hence beneficial for research paper reviews that require references. In addition, these materials are helpful when you require a broad overview of a topic, even if they may not have specialist knowledge of the subject matter.

Some of the most used media-related reference sources include broadcast news organizations such as BBC, Aljazeera, and CNN, among other credible organizations. Others include respected newspaper and magazine publishers such as The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

The reason that makes these sources popular and authentic is they are researched and prepared by credible journalists. In addition, other articles are penned by professional guest writers whose work can be justified.

  • Reference Books

Also known as background sources, reference books consist of encyclopedias, directories, almanacs, handbooks, bibliographies, maps and atlases, and dictionaries. These great reference sources can be in print or on the internet.

Reference books are a vital source of overviews, facts, and background information related to a specific subject matter. Therefore, you should consult such materials when writing a research paper, especially when the topic you are writing about is new to you.

Some of the top advantages of using reference books as reference sources are that the books work with facts only, the information contained in these materials is compiled from many other credible sources, and information is easy to find.

  • Non-Reference Books

Also referred to as circulating books, non-reference books are fiction and non-fiction books penned to offer comprehensive information regarding a particular subject or topic. They, therefore, form credible reference sources.

However, it would be best to be careful when referencing information from non-reference books. Be keen on the information timeline as well as the author’s credentials to determine the authenticity of the book to be used as a reference source.


Today, there are multiple physical and internet sources that academics use in writing academic papers, some of which are not authentic and credible. However, after reading this article on how to get references for your research paper, you are better positioned to conduct research from suitable sources and, therefore, write a plausible paper.

Therefore, as a researcher or an academic student, employ the reference sources mentioned above to write your research paper. These sources meet the currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose criteria.