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My Tips for Writing Essays Part 4: Get the Sources You Want

In the last part of this blog series on my best essay writing tips, I talked about mining for sources.

But what do you do if the source you need to find isn’t a journal article? Egads, what if it’s a book?!! Quellehorreur. Or what do you do if you can’t find the whole text of an article online, you have no idea how to navigate your school’s useless library UI (or they lack the article you want), and you really, really need the source?

Before you go making stuff up – don’t do that! – try looking in a few specific places. Today, we’ll cover some ways to actually get the sources you might want. Sure, it’s easier to just find sources you can easily access – I’ll cover that next time – but every now and again, you really need or want something specific.

Google Books

Google Books has generous and searchable previews of most books, and if the book was published before 1922 it’s usually in the public domain and available in its entirety on Google Books or Gutenberg.org. Google Books is a great resource, though many of its previews are limited. It can be great for fact-checking information, or even just finding the source for a random sentence. The best thing about it is that if something comes up in a search, and it’s not part of the preview, it will still show you the source and page number, even if you can’t access the whole book. This can be great if you want to triangulate a book quote from an eBook with the printed page number.

Gutenberg.org 

Gutenberg.org is a website that specializes in works that are out of copyright. If you need a work of classic literature from before about 1922, when copyright laws changed, this is a great place to start.

Archive.org / Internet Public Library 

A lot of Wikipedia articles cite old books. Archive.org has digitized books. You may have to register for a free account, and some books can only be “checked out” for an hour at a time (you can renew them with one mouse click). However, this is a great way to get obscure books. I have found it to be especially helpful for history and literature papers.

Archive.org also has the “Wayback Machine,” which saves snapshots of now-defunct websites and shows you how sites looked in the past. Not only is this fun, it’s a good way to verify sources: Most Wikipedia articles that use external websites as sources link to an archive.org URL in order to make sure that the source can still be located (I believe this is a Wikipedia policy, to avoid the use of dead links or issues if a cited webpage changes).

Newspaper articles

Old newspaper articles are fun to read. Even better, they scream “I did so much research” to your professor. But how can you get them without going to all the effort of leaving home and going to an actual library?

If you can’t access Newspapers.com through your school, try signing up with a free trial and canceling later (You may be surprised at how helpful the site is!). The New York Times also has an archive going back to the mid-nineteenth century, and many schools have access for free.

NewspaperArchive.com has most of what Newspapers.com does, but in the event you are researching something and need a specific newspaper that they don’t have, you can give it a try.

Other ideas

Can’t find an article on Google Scholar or your school library? I’m not advocating for piracy or anything like that, ahem, but there may be a way to find articles that rhymes with “Schmydub.” That’s all I’ll say

Hopefully these ideas helped you figure out how to track down some sources for your essay – without having to resort to the drawn-out searching process and terrible user interface that most school libraries have. And hopefully, you will never, ever, ever shell out $39.95 for a journal article.

If you’re struggling to find scholarly sources for your essay, or stuck hammering out your ideas, you might want to consider using an essay writing service. The best essay writing services can help you track down tricky sources to get the grade you need on your next paper.

For more essay writing tips and help, reach out to the one and onlyUnemployed Professors.

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