10 Best Online Websites and Resources for Academic Research
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- Finding credible sources for academic research can be a major challenge for many college students.
- A growing number of online databases and libraries offer millions of potential sources.
- The university library helps students access restricted academic sources.
- Discover new online resources to make your next research project more efficient.
Every college student conducts research at some point. And professors have strong views on what counts as a credible academic resource. Choosing the wrong sources can hurt your grade.
So how can you conduct research efficiently while avoiding sleepless nights in the campus library? Online academic research websites make it easier to find reliable sources quickly.
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College students conduct academic research in all kinds of disciplines, including science, history, literature, engineering, and education. And when it comes to college research papers, academic resources are the best sources.
Rather than pulling random facts from the internet — and running into problems with citations — college students need to know how to find credible sources and how to use online academic tools. Keep reading to learn how you can find the best credible sources for your college research needs.
How to Find Credible Sources for Research
How can you find credible sources for research and avoid misinformation? Your instructor likely recommends avoiding general web content or Wikipedia.
Finding the most reliable websites for research starts with evaluating the website itself. Sites run by academic or government organizations rank high in reliability. Databases and specialized search engines can also provide good research sources.
Next, make sure you understand the source of the information and the process used to publish it. Scholarly articles and books that undergo peer review make for the best academic resources.
Finally, when in doubt, check with your instructor or an academic librarian. They can help point you to reliable sources or double-check sources you're unsure about.
The 10 Best Academic Research Sources
What resources will point you toward reliable sources for your academic research? Rather than scrolling through pages of search results, turn to these academic resources when you need to find sources.
1. Google Scholar
Looking for an academic article, thesis, or abstract? Google Scholar should be your first stop. Google Scholar helps you find related works, locate full documents at your school library, and access scholarly research.
While Google created Google Scholar, it's very different from a general online search. Google Scholar brings together academic articles and ranks them based on the authors, publication location, and citation record. That means the top results generally represent the most reliable scholarship on your topic.
For journal articles, books, images, and even primary sources, JSTOR ranks among the best online resources for academic research. JSTOR's collection spans 75 disciplines, with strengths in the humanities and social sciences. The academic research database includes complete runs of over 2,800 journals.
And if you're looking for images, turn to Artstor, which offers over 2.5 million images related to the arts, sciences, and literature. However, JSTOR is not an open-access database. That means you'll need to log in through your university library, which typically includes off-campus access.
3. Library of Congress
As the largest library in the world, the Library of Congress is an amazing online resource for academic research. Students can search its collections to access digital resources, videos, audio recordings, photographs, and maps.
The library's materials also include notated music, web archives, legislation, and 3D objects. You'll find materials for almost any topic in its extensive collections. You can search historic American newspapers from 1777-1963 with the Chronicling America tool or look up pirate trials in another digital collection.
4. PubMed Central
The National Library of Medicine, part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, runs PubMed Central. Founded in 2000, the database includes academic scholarship dating back to the 18th century. The resource connects college students with life sciences and biomedical academic sources.
And as an open-access database, PubMed Central offers free access to scholarly literature. Today, PubMed Central has over 7 million full-text records, making it a great resource for students in the life sciences or medical fields.
5. Google Books
Whether you're looking for a recent publication or an out-of-print book, there's a good chance you'll find it on Google Books. In 2019, Google announced that Google Books contains over 40 million books.
You can enter any search term to find books that contain matches. And you can download the full text of any book in the public domain — which includes 10 million titles. Make sure to check publisher and author information when using Google Books.
The site also includes reference pages that link to book reviews. Keep in mind that you'll have more limited access to recent books. Still, Google Books is a great first step to find sources that you can later look for at your campus library.
If you're looking for scientific research, Science.gov is a great option. The site provides full-text documents, scientific data, and other resources from federally funded research.
A U.S. government site, Science.gov searches more than 60 databases and 2,200 scientific websites. You'll find over 200 million pages of research and development information, including projects funded by 14 federal agencies. Students in any STEM field can benefit from the resource.
7. Digital Commons Network
University librarians curate the Digital Commons Network, which connects students with peer-reviewed articles. The site's other resources include dissertations, book chapters, conference proceedings, and working papers.
The Digital Commons Network includes scholarly work from diverse disciplines like architecture, business, education, law, and the sciences. You can also access humanities, social sciences, and engineering scholarship through the network.
ResearchGate has been described as social networking for research scientists. But ResearchGate is also a great option to find open-access academic sources. Scholars upload their work to ResearchGate, which makes it available to the public for free.
Currently, over 20 million researchers around the world use the site, which contains over 135 million publications. College students looking for scientific research can often find resources on ResearchGate and even connect with scholars.
When you're looking for library resources, WorldCat is one of the best tools. Connected to over 10,000 libraries, WorldCat is a database that allows you to search library collections.
The database lists books and articles available at your local libraries, making it easier to find materials that are not available online. In addition to books, WorldCat contains music, videos, audiobooks, and scholarly articles.
You can also find digital research materials, including photos. When you're logged into WorldCat through your university library, you can also access full-text articles and other resources. Or you can use WorldCat to find sources to request through interlibrary loan.
10. Your University Library
When you're conducting academic research, your university library can be one of your best resources. In addition to online databases, journal articles, and books, your campus library also has academic librarians who can point you to the best sources.
When you don't know where to start, reach out to an academic librarian to learn more about your school's research tools. Or use interlibrary loan to get a scanned copy of an article. Many of the campus library's resources are available online, making them easy to access.
How to Access Academic Resources
Many sites offer open-access resources. That means anyone can access the materials. Other sites restrict what you can read. For example, you might find some blank pages when searching on Google Books because of copyright restrictions. And many academic articles are behind paywalls.
Fortunately, college students benefit from one of the best resources for conducting research: the university library. Your library likely subscribes to multiple academic databases and journals. If you run into a paywall, check whether your library offers access to the resource.