Select your language

Suggested languages for you:
Log In Start studying!
StudySmarter - The all-in-one study app.
4.8 • +11k Ratings
More than 3 Million Downloads
Free
|
|

All-in-one learning app

  • Flashcards
  • NotesNotes
  • ExplanationsExplanations
  • Study Planner
  • Textbook solutions
Start studying

Essay Sources and Presenting Research

Save Save
Print Print
Edit Edit
Sign up to use all features for free. Sign up now
Essay Sources and Presenting Research

Without a doubt, the most important part of any essay or paper is your sources. Sources add credible knowledge and evidence to your work and can help you decide on your argument, and plan an outline.

The collection and analysis of your sources is considered research. There are two types of research: primary research and secondary research. Primary research involves collecting your own data using primary sources such as interviews, whereas secondary research involves analysing pre-existing secondary sources, such as journal articles.

It's important to know how to correctly present your sources and research to give the correct credit where it's due, avoid plagiarism, and ensure your findings are clear for your reader. This article will introduce the different sources you can use and where to find them, and explain how to correctly present your findings.

Academic Sources for Essays

Academic sources (aka scholarly sources) should be the starting point for your essay or research paper. No matter what type of paper you’re writing, you should include at least some academic sources. Academic sources are secondary sources, such as books and journal articles, and are the things you’ll read to give you credible knowledge and evidence for your essays.

Secondary sources are people’s analyses of an event, time, or situation. They are typically books, journals, articles, and reports.

Before you start writing your essay or paper, it’s important to read a wide range of academic sources to gain an understanding of the key theories, concepts and current understandings in your area of study. This will help you structure your work and help develop your own argument based on what you have read.

Reading academic sources is considered a part of academic research.

What makes a source academic?

Typically speaking, academic sources should be credible and peer-reviewed; this means they have been written by an expert in the field of study and have been checked and reviewed by other experts.

Although there isn’t an absolute way to check if a source is academic or not, here are a few things you should look out for:

  • The publisher - Academic sources are usually published by professional and recognisable publishers, such as Oxford University Press. If you can’t find a publisher's name anywhere, it’s likely you’re not looking at an academic source.

  • The author’s name and credentials - An academic source should provide the author’s name, including the university or organisation they’re associated with; this means someone is held accountable for the work.

  • A reference list - As previously mentioned, credible academic work should be based upon other academic sources. Therefore, you can check if a source is academic by looking at its reference list.

The most common forms of academic sources are:

  • Books

  • Academic journal articles

  • Official published reports

Things that aren’t academic sources include:

  • Wikipedia

  • Blog posts

  • News articles (this doesn’t mean you can’t use them in your work, but extra care must be taken to check the article is from a credible news source, and you must remain aware that newspapers can often be biased)

Essay sources and presenting research, Image of library, StudySmarter

Where to find academic sources

The best place to start is the recommended reading list provided by your teacher or lecturer. This should give you the basics and ensure you don’t miss anything too important!

Your recommended reading list can also help you decide what you want or need to read next. For example, you could decide what theories or concepts interest you or are relevant to your study and look them up in the reference list.

You can also look through your college library’s database and Google Scholar, using keywords and phrases to help you find further journal articles and books. Remember to use the filtering system to find current and relevant sources for your study.

For official publications such as reports, try looking at the government website.

In your search for sources, you’ll come across a lot of literature! You won’t have the time to read everything, and knowing what is worth your time and what isn’t can be tricky. When you have found a source you think might be helpful, try reading the abstract (the summary at the beginning of an article), the introduction, and the conclusion first to see if you want to invest your time reading the whole article. Remember to use your skimming and scanning skills!

Other sources you can use

Academic sources aren’t the only sources you can use in your essays and research papers. You can also use primary sources. These are sources that directly connect to a time, place, or event, such as photographs, news reports, diaries, and videos. Using primary sources is a great way to add depth and evidence to your work.

However, you should be aware that primary sources aren’t always credible, and you should take care to research where that source came from. For example, some news sites, such as the BBC, can be used, whereas other ‘red top’ newspapers, such as the Daily Star, cannot.

Presenting Research

Before we delve into how to present research, let’s look at the two main types of research: primary and secondary research.

Primary research

Primary research is when you conduct your own research using methods such as interviews, questionnaires, and observations.

Secondary research

Secondary research is a research method that involves using and analysing pre-existing data. As we said before, using academic sources to build an argument is secondary research. Analysing and interpreting someone else’s data and findings is also considered secondary research.

Presenting Secondary Research Findings

Secondary research should be the foundation of any essay or research paper. Even when conducting your own primary research, it’s important to set the context and the rationale (reason) behind the study with secondary research.

When presenting secondary research in your work, you must reference the original authors. Referencing ensures that you give the appropriate credit to the original author and helps to avoid plagiarism. It can also show your readers (especially examiners!) that you have read a wide range of sources and understand your chosen topic well.

Plagiarism - Taking someone else's work and passing it off as your own.

Referencing

Referencing includes an in-text reference (aka in-text citation) and a reference list that appears at the end of your work. Every reference you use must be in your reference list.

When using secondary sources, you can either use a direct quote or paraphrase the author’s ideas. How you reference will depend on which method you choose.

Direct quote

When quoting directly, you should place the quote between quotation marks, and include the author’s surname, the date of publication, and the page number.

Chomsky (2003) stated that "Language is a process of free creation; its laws and principles are fixed, but the manner in which the principles of generation are used is free and infinitely varied." (p.402).

Direct quotes should be used sparingly and shouldn’t be too long! An essay full of quotes isn’t going to be great and you must also paraphrase ideas.

Paraphrasing

Paraphrasing is an important skill in essay writing, it is when you take ideas from others and summarise them in your own words. When paraphrasing, we don’t need to use quotation marks but we do still need to reference the author.

Here are the different ways this can be done

Language should be viewed as something in a constant process of free creation (Chomsky, 2003).

Chomsky (2003) suggests that, although the laws and principles of language remain the same, the way it can be used is infinitely varied.

Reference list

All of the references used throughout your work must be included in your reference list. Typically, reference lists are arranged in alphabetical order according to the author’s surname.

References in the reference list contain a lot more information than in-text references; they typically include:

  • The authors’ surnames and initials

  • The publication date

  • The title of the book (in italics) or

  • The title of the article

  • The name of the publisher if it’s a book, or

  • The name of the journal (in italics)

  • The place of publication and publisher (this isn’t needed for websites or journals)

  • The DOI (digital object identifier) - the DOI is a unique link to online journal articles. You only need to include DOIs for online articles.

Chomsky, N. (2003). For Reasons Of State. New Delhi: Penguin Books India.

Crystal, D. (1997). English as a global language. London: Routledge.

Fairclough, N & Wodak, R. (1997). Critical Discourse Analysis. London: Sage.

Jenkins, J. (2009). English as a lingua franca: Interpretations and attitudes. World Englishes, 28 (2), 200-207. doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-971X.2009.01582.x

It's important to note that there are several different referencing styles, such as Harvard referencing and APA referencing. It's best to check with your teacher or lecturer which reference style you should be using.

Presenting Primary Research Findings

When conducting your own primary research, you will need to present your findings.

Some of the primary research methods you might use are:

  • Interviews (structured, semi-structured, and unstructured)

  • Questionnaires

  • Surveys

  • Observations

There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to present your findings, and the type of data you obtain, quantitative or qualitative, will impact how you choose to present it.

Quantitative data = countable or measurable fixed data usually represented by numbers and statistically analysed. Quantitative data can answer the questions: How often? How much? How many?

Qualitative data = Descriptive and subjective data that aims to understand the hows and whys of human behaviour. It aims to gather more in-depth and meaningful data compared to quantitative data. Qualitative data is open to interpretation and is usually analysed by grouping the data into meaningful categories.

The previously mentioned research methods (questionnaires, surveys, observations) can produce both qualitative and quantitative data, and some of the best research projects analyse both.

Visual representations

Presenting quantitative data is often done with visual representations, such as tables, charts, graphs, and other figures. Visualising your data can make it easier for your reader to digest and comprehend, and is more appealing than bombarding them with lots of numbers! Visual representations can also be used for qualitative data, although this is less common.

Let’s have a look at some visual representations you can use.

Bar graph

Essay Sources Image of bar graph StudySmarter

Image of bar graph - StudySmarter Original

Bar graphs (aka bar charts) are good for highlighting comparisons. For example, how many participants produced the rhotic /r/ sound in Hampshire compared to Sussex.

Pie chart

Essay Sources Image of pie chart StudySmarter

Image of pie chart - StudySmarter Original

Pie charts are used to show the percentage of a whole. For example, what percentage of people asked found their language education to be 'average'.

Line graphs

Essay Sources Image of line graph StudySmarter

Image of line graph - StudySmarter Original

Line graphs are good for representing trends and changes in behaviour over time. For example, how people have changed the way they learn a language over time.

Whichever way you decide to present your data, make sure you have clearly labelled your visuals and have adequately explained to the reader what data they're looking at and why.

Presenting qualitative data

The presentation of qualitative data is a little trickier. Researchers (that's you!) will usually follow an inductive approach to analysing qualitative data, meaning they let the results of their research lead their analysis. Because of this, there really is no set way to present qualitative data.

Qualitative data is usually grouped together in meaningful groups to be analysed; it makes sense to present your findings in a similar way. You can use visual representations, where appropriate, or you can simply write out your findings in a clear way. If you have used interviews, observations, or questionnaires you should include examples and excerpts of these in the main body of your writing to help illustrate your analysis.

  • The most important things to consider when presenting your findings are:
    • Is it logical - In what order will you show your data, and why? How does the data you’re presenting correlate with your research questions or essay brief?

    • Is it clear - Are all of your graphs etc., clearly and appropriately labelled?

    • Is it relevant - You don’t need to include everything if it isn’t relevant.

Appendix

Like the reference list, an appendix goes at the end of your work. The appendix should contain examples of how you collected the data; for example, a copy of the questionnaire, a list of the interview questions, notes from your observations etc.

It’s important to note that the appendix is supplementary to your main body of work and your work should still make sense if it's removed.

Essay Sources and Presenting Research - Key Takeaways

  • Any essay or research paper you write requires sources. You should aim to use mainly academic sources (books, journals, and reports).
  • Reading and using sources to structure your essay and build your argument is considered secondary research. Presenting this research requires referencing.
  • Referencing is when we give appropriate credit to other authors when using their work or ideas. When referencing, we use an in-text reference (citation) and include a reference list.
  • When conducting your own primary research (interviews, questionnaires etc.) you need to present your findings in a clear and logical way.
  • Quantitative data is often presented using visuals, such as bar graphs and pie charts.
  • Remember to include a reference list and appendix at the end of your work!

Frequently Asked Questions about Essay Sources and Presenting Research

The best place to start is your recommended reading list which should have been provided by your teacher/lecturer. You can also search your college's library databases and Google Scholar. Ensure you are using sources with an accredited author from a well-known publisher.

An academic source is a secondary source (book, journal article, report) that is written by an expert in the field and is peer-reviewed. Peer-reviewing is when other experts in the field review and 'mark' the work. 

When using sources in your essays you must reference them. When referencing, we use an in-text reference (citation) and include that reference in a reference list at the end of your work.

Primary sources have a direct link to an event, time, or situation. For example, interviews, questionnaires, autobiographies, photographs, and diaries. On the other hand, secondary sources are other people's analyses of primary sources. For example, journal articles. books, reports, newspaper articles.  

Primary research is when you create new data by undertaking your own research, such as conducting interviews. On the other hand, secondary research is when you read, paraphrase and summarise other people's data and ideas. 

There are several ways you can present a source in an essay. One common way is within a PEE (point, evidence, explanation) paragraph. When introducing the source, you can either use a direct quotation, paraphrase the point, or summarise the main ideas.

Final Essay Sources and Presenting Research Quiz

Question

What type of source is an academic journal article?

Show answer

Answer

Secondary source

Show question

Question

True or false, academic sources are usually peer-reviewed?

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

What is peer-reviewing?

Show answer

Answer

When other experts in the field of study review a piece of work, such as a journal article or research paper. 

Show question

Question

What type of data is usually represented with visuals, such as a pie chart?

Show answer

Answer

Quantitative data

Show question

Question

Why is it important to reference?

Show answer

Answer

  • To give credit to the original author.
  • To avoid plagiarism.
  • To show our readers how much research and reading we have done.

Show question

Question

What three things should you look for when checking if a source is academic or not?

Show answer

Answer

  • Author's name and credentials 
  • Publisher 
  • Reference list 

Show question

Question

Is Wikipedia considered an academic source?

Show answer

Answer

No, because there isn't an author's name or publisher included. 

Show question

Question

Can you use Google to find sources?

Show answer

Answer

You can use Google Scholar!

Show question

Question

When using a direct quote, what must you include?

Show answer

Answer

  • The author's surname
  • The publication date 
  • The page number 
  • The reference in the reference list 


Show question

Question

When paraphrasing, do you need to use quotation marks?

Show answer

Answer

No, but you still need to include a reference. 

Show question

Question

All essays should include what?

Show answer

Answer

Some academic sources 

Show question

Question

What are secondary sources?

Show answer

Answer

People’s analyses of an event, time, or situation. They are typically books, journals, articles, and reports.

Show question

Question

True or false, reading academic sources is considered a part of academic research?


Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

Fill in the blanks:

Typically speaking, academic sources should be _____ and _______.

Show answer

Answer

Credible and peer reviewed

Show question

Question

What things can you look for to see if a source is academic?

Show answer

Answer

  • Writer's name or credentials 
  • Credible publisher
  • Date of publish
  • A reference list

Show question

Question

Is Wikipedia a credible source?

Show answer

Answer

No, but you can use it as a starting point if you must!

Show question

Question

What's the difference between a primary source and primary research?

Show answer

Answer

A primary source is a source that directly connects to a time, place, or event, such as photographs, news reports, diaries, and videos. 


Primary research is research you conduct yourself.

Show question

Question

True or false, primary research needs a reference?

Show answer

Answer

False. Since you conducted the primary research, you don't need to reference it

Show question

Question

When should you use a reference?

Show answer

Answer

Any time you use someone elses' work or ideas, even if it is paraphrased.

Show question

Question

What is a DOI?

Show answer

Answer

DOI stands for digital object identifier. It is a unique number that works as a link to a journal article.

Show question

More about Essay Sources and Presenting Research
60%

of the users don't pass the Essay Sources and Presenting Research quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

Discover the right content for your subjects

No need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed! Packed into one app!

Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Just Signed up?

Yes
No, I'll do it now

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.