Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sussing Out Solid Sources for Articles

Searching for article sources becomes easy, once a writer knows where to look.
One thing I've noticed that many online writers find intimidating is finding original and credible sources. While you could just cite and information from other articles, there is a danger to doing so. The writer of the piece you are using for a source could have gotten some of the information wrong or interpreted it in a way you would find to be untrue, had you looked at the original source yourself. Luckily, it is fairly easy to discover the original information or even come up with your own unique sources.

Tips for Finding Original Source Documents Online:
  • Original studies can often be found online. (Hint: If you are having trouble finding the name of the study, search for some of the facts and figures.)
  • Company announcements are often made through press releases. (Hint: Check company and agency websites for the 'Press Room' or similarly named tab.)
  • Government news and reports are published on their websites. (Hint: Search the sites 'News' section for recent stories. A PDF of official reports are often linked in these.)
  • Sports teams have websites where official stats can be located. (Hint: Clicking on an individual player's name will often pull up their individual stats and bios.)
  • People, famous or not, often have their own official Twitter accounts, Facebook pages,websites and blogs that they use to inform the public. (Hint: If you are searching for a celebrity, make sure the account has been verified. If it has not been, it could be someone else posting.)
Yes, finding a credible resource can be as easy as querying your favorite search engine.
 In cases where your article would benefit from a human source, don't be afraid to hunt down the appropriate person. This can be as easy as making a telephone call or blasting out an inquiring email. Remember to check the credentials of anyone who responds.

Tips for Finding People to Use as Sources: 
  •  Call the person/company/agency for comments.
  • Social media can be a great resource to find people talking about current events. (Hint: Either ask via your own social platform or privately message to see if they would like to be interviewed.)
  • Universities are full of people who are experts on very specific subjects. Professor listings and specialties can be found online. (Hint: Also try calling the public relations department and ask if they have someone who can speak as an expert on the subject.)
  • Send mass queries out to subscribers of sites that exist to connect the media and experts. ProfNet and HARO are the two I frequently use. (Hint: Consider getting a separate email for this. You may get buried with responses.)
Remember this thing? Interviews are not passe, I promise.
This is by no means a definitive list on how and where to find original sources, but should give you a starting point. There are even an abundance of offline (gasp) sources that can be utilized. Frankly, most of these options take very little time and the quality of your work will benefit from the extra steps. 

Do you have any favorite websites or tips that you use to find sources?

Photo credits: (top to bottom) Julo/public domain/Wikimedia Commons; Georgy90/Wikimedia Commons; Holger.Ellgaard/Wikimedia Commons


    1. Nice points about using sources for writing online. I tend to favor the educational websites for universities, more specifically, the schools with prestige or schools that are known for a particular subject that I need to write about.

      For example, NYU and UCLA may be good sources when writing about film but Harvard or UPENN may be better sources to use when writing about business or medical related subjects. So, if I have to write something about painting or sculpture, I'm likely not wanting to use a website that is popular in the music idustry or vice versa.....unless they have some information that is hard to find elsewhere, lol.

      The Madlab Post

    2. I've never written an "article". This is a new endeavor for me and, so far, I have just written about personal experienc You have given some great advice and guidelines. I may have to expand my writing horizons.



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