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How to Find REAL Primary Sources

 Written by    June 30, 2019

I’m willing to bet that you’re rolling your eyes just from the title alone. After all, how many times have we all gone over this in high school? These articles are primary sources, those are not, and so on and so forth. To an extent, that knowledge still applies to finding sources for your papers at OSU. The requirements for sources, after all, are completely dependent on the professor you get

However, some classes (usually science-affiliated ones) will require you to use “real” primary sources when writing your work, and articles from NPR or Politico will suddenly no longer count as primary (they will instead be considered secondary). The question, therefore, then focuses on these “real” primary sources. What exactly are they?

From what I’ve seen so far, the new standard for primary sources has been set to scientific articles (hence the association with science classes), which are basically full-length scholarly pieces from prestigious journals. These articles are always fact-checked by multiple scholars and scientists for months, if not years, to ensure that absolutely everything in them is factually accurate before publishing them. Such articles are usually difficult to come by – if you’re not a Buckeye.

Part of your tuition payments include access to a research tool provided by the Ohio State Library known as the Web of Science, an online database that basically serves as a Google for scientific articles. Pretty much every search result you find on here would likely be considered a primary source (though again, this depends on the professor). Here’s a brief rundown:

  1. Go to this link before clicking on the link titled “Web of Science.”
  2. As this is an OSU-exclusive resource, you’ll need to login using your OSU credentials.
  3. Bear with it, mainly. It can take a little longer to load.
  4. Once you’re there, you’re golden. Search away!

The Web of Science helped me write a major paper for one of my science classes, but even if you don’t end up using it at all, it’s still worth remembering that the expectations regarding your research sources might change once you start writing college papers on a regular basis.

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