Help:Find sources

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The Wikipedia Library
Find sources

Independent and reliable sources are vital for creating encyclopedia articles. Reliable sources allow editors to verify that claims in an article are accurate. The higher the quality of the source for the statement it backs up, the more likely that statement is to be accurate. Independent sources help editors to write neutrally and to prove that the subject has received note. Wherever possible, editors should aim to use sources that are independent and highly reliable for the subjects they write about.

Many of the best sources are not available online, or are only available under subscription. For example, many books are not available online at all, and subscription to academic databases such as JSTOR can be fairly expensive. However, it is possible to use the internet to find many good sources to use in writing encyclopedia articles. Examples of such sources are news stories from newspapers with a reputation for accuracy, books which have previews on Google Books, and academic papers which are available for free on their authors' websites.

Types of sources

Many types of sources are available, although some are appropriate only in certain situations.

  • Scholarly articles: short papers published in academic journals. They may present original research or review the research of others. Many undergo a process of peer review before publication. This video explains peer review in more detail.
  • Books and monographs: longer academic or popular works.
  • Textbooks: an instructional or educational manual covering a particular subject area.
  • Dictionaries and encyclopedias: reference works containing multiple entries for different words or topics. Wikipedia is an example of an encyclopedia.
  • Archival and other primary sources: historic documents. This page outlines appropriate use of primary sources.
  • Magazine articles: short papers in popular or trade publications.
  • Newspaper articles or news reports: writing or multimedia that discusses current events or editorial analysis. This page assesses the reliability of news content.
  • Reports and other grey literature: a broad category that includes most government documents, conference proceedings, and other writings not provided by traditional publishers.
  • Statistics: data, particularly census data, and analysis
  • Theses and dissertations: works created as a requirement for the completion of an advanced postsecondary degree. This page describes some of the considerations in using these types of sources.
  • Websites, blogs and other user-generated sources: online content from a variety of authors/publishers. Reliability depends on the editorial control of the website. This page discusses issues with user-generated content.
Where to look for sources
  • Google or other general search engines are effective for finding online sources in particular, but can also be used for some other kinds of sources depending on the topic area. This video outlines advanced Google searching techniques.
    • User:Syced/Wikipedia Reference Search provides a Google Custom Search that can be used to efficiently find sources on certain websites that some Wikipedia editors have determined are generally reliable, overall. Some hits (such as opinion pages) may not necessarily comply with WP:RS, so judgment is still needed. Because this search only includes returns from a pre-determined list of candidates it could miss many others possible sources. Nonetheless, this tool can sometimes be a good starting point.
  • Google Scholar is a good general search engine for more academic material, particularly scholarly articles, although some content will be behind a paywall. This longer video outlines the use of Google Scholar.
  • Google Books indexes millions of books, both academic and popular; however, not all will be available in full text. This video introduces the use of Google Books for research.
  • Public or research libraries have both books and research databases, covering a wide variety of subject areas. Find yours.
  • Wikipedia:Free English newspaper sources (WP:FENS) provides a list of text-searchable, free (no-pay, non-subscription/-membership/-login) online English newspaper sources.
  • See if any free resources cover the topic area
  • The Wikipedia Library is an initiative to help Wikipedians get access to subscription or paid sources to improve Wikipedia articles. Editors can apply for access to databases, request specific sources, or request help with research.
  • Bibliographies on a topic outline the main scholarly sources in a subject area and provide a good starting point, where they are available.
  • Once you have found one good scholarly source, you can see what sources it cites and what cited it (citation chaining). This video describes citation chaining using Google Scholar.
Evaluating sources

Issues to consider in deciding whether a source is reliable include:

  • Who is the author? What are their qualifications and reputation? Do they have any identifiable biases?
  • Who is the publisher? Is the work self-published? Does the publisher have a history of editorial reputation? Does the publisher have any biases?
  • When was the source published? Is the information outdated?
  • Does the source cite its own sources? Is it based on facts or opinions?
  • Is the source primary, secondary, or tertiary?
  • Are there any obvious errors or omissions?

To help find sources, Wikipedians have developed a number of source-finding templates which link to searches most likely to find references suitable for use in articles. The most well-known of these is {{find sources}}, an inline template which can be used almost anywhere. (But please don't use it in articles themselves.) This template allows editors to tweak search strings to find the best match for the subject; see the documentation for details. Alternatively, users who desire more freedom can use the meta-template {{find sources multi}}, which allows a choice of search engines.

Example of {{find sources}}:

{{find sources|human disguise}} produces: Find sources: Google (books⧼Dot-separator⧽news⧼Dot-separator⧽newspapers⧼Dot-separator⧽scholar⧼Dot-separator⧽free images⧼Dot-separator⧽WP refs)⧼Dot-separator⧽FENS⧼Dot-separator⧽JSTOR⧼Dot-separator⧽NYT⧼Dot-separator⧽TWL

Example of {{find sources multi}}:

{{find sources multi|human disguise|link1=g|link2=gnews|link3=ddg}} produces: Google⧼dot-separator⧽Google News⧼dot-separator⧽DuckDuckGo

For subjects that have several names or spellings, it may be desirable to use more than one search. This can be as simple as using several {{find sources}} templates. However, if you want to add the links to an article talk page, the most elegant solution may be to use {{find sources notice}}. This template can handle single searches or multiple searches, and all search strings can be tweaked; see the documentation for all the possibilities. It should be placed under the WikiProject banners. You can use this syntax for multiple searches:

{{find sources notice|search1=human disguise|search2=human suit|search3=aliens among us|search4=disguised as a human}}

This produces: