Creating an Academic Essay: Using a Wide Variety of Sources

When it comes to academic essays, there’s a lot of work to be done. The part where you actually sit down and write, as anyone familiar with academic writing will tell you, is only a small part of the actual “writing process.” You have to get out into the world and live life. You have to have life experiences, and experience the topics involved in your field or craft firsthand. And you need to find the perfect sources to augment and outfit your paper.

For some, this is the hardest part of the process. Sure, maybe you can turn a phrase, but finding a source that can back up what you’re trying to say? That can be tricky, but it does not need to be. Here, then, are a few tips and tricks to help you when you’re looking for a wide variety of sources to use in your academic essay.

Narrow Your Search

To begin with, you shouldn’t confuse “a wide variety of sources” with “a wide variety of disparate, disconnected sources.” You need to make sure that there’s some kind of continuity between your sources, as you’re going to want that level of cohesiveness in your paper.

Say, for example, you’re planning on doing an academic essay on William Shakespeare. Now, it may come as something as a shock, but there are more than a few articles on the Bard of Avon—if you don’t narrow your scope before you start your search, you’re going to literally come across hundreds of thousands of results (and that’s being extremely conservative.)

Quoth the Expert

When looking to quote and use a wide variety of sources, you want to keep a special eye out for experts. These are people who are masters of their craft or leaders in their field, and they can give your academic essay a big boost. How? Simply put, when you’re arguing a thesis, one of the things you really want to establish is credibility. Without that, you won’t be able to convince your readers, and if you can’t do that, then your paper is doomed to failure. By citing these experts, you can use their points to back up your own, thereby lending your thesis some credibility in an academic sense.

One more word of advice—when you cite, be sure to avoid the dreaded “dropped quote.” This is essentially the quote version of name-dropping. Just mentioning something or dropping a quote in there without context or a proper introduction is poor writing and won’t be accepted.