1. When completing a piece of research-based coursework, it is vitally important to support your writing with research completed through solid, reliable sources. The problem with many students today, is that with the rise in popularity of the internet, open-web sources are now readily available and brimming over with information. ‘Wikis’, as they are known, are information communities which encourage and enable their users to edit and provide information on subjects. Understandably, this information is largely unreliable as it is fundamentally unsupported by references or a qualification held by its author. When completing a research-based project, it is important to make an assessment of how reliable the source is: if it has ‘wiki’ in its name or address, it means that it is unreliable, for the above reason. The same can be said for forums or any other internet source which is written by anonymous members of the public.
2. A topic sentence is a sentence which relates directly to your thesis and helps to summarize what you hope to establish and discuss within. These sentences are the framework from which the body of your work will be built around; therefore, they need to be built on strong, solid facts from strong, solid sources. Using sources that come from either books, academic journals or peer assessed journals, is demonstrative of strong, academic work. This, in turn, strengthens your case as an academic writer and heightens the worth of your writing. As with any research-based work, the source of your information should be checked, verified and double checked before using it in your work. If the source appears to be open to editing or contribution from un-verified members of the public, you should not use this in your writing. This is doubly the case when composing your topic sentences as they are the groundwork for the rest of your thesis; if they are wrong, you run the risk of going badly off course with the rest of your writing too.
3. Three steps to ensure that your informative sources are accurate:
a. Check to see which format the source is in. If it is a book or an academic journal, they are generally a safe source to use, seconded by whether they are in a University library or not. If it is an online source, you must take extra care to ensure that it is an accurately composed piece of work.
b. When reviewing a forum, a blog post, or even a wiki (under certain circumstances), check to see whether the text links to a source itself. If there is a web link or a bibliographic reference, check to see where it leads. If it leads to a secure source, the information is likely to be safe to use. Always double check the source of this information.
c. If there is no bibliographic information attached to the source, use your common sense to assess its value. Check the page address: generally speaking, if the address contains ‘.edu’ or ‘.ac.uk’, for example (depending on the country your information is from), then the information is likely to be safe as these generally link to academic/education-based websites.
4. As with most things in life, if one person claims to be an expert on a subject, they will invariably be listened to with more gusto than someone with lots of opinions. That said, the context of the situation can alter this entirely: in a conversation between friends, an opinion-based discussion is more likely to be of interest where as a factual-based one may seem boring and stuffy. However, in academic writing, the opposite is true. In finding a source written by, or even just endorsed by, an expert you have found a strong base for your essay. An example of an opinion-based article on music is this from, A Beautiful Hole: a blog which focuses on opinion-based discussion of music and playlists.
It is an entertaining, informal read which is great in an informal setting; but it could not be used for academic writing as the writer does not have any musical credentials to claim. The writing also avoids using facts, figures and statistics and instead, it prefers to voice the opinion of just one person, meaning that it is not a valid contribution to an informative piece of writing. Whereas the factual-based article from Weegy, provides the reader with factual-based information about the progression of the music industry. Whilst it may not be a secure enough source for use in academic writing, it does still have much more of a factual-basis which stands for more than opinion.
1. Treagus, Hannah. “Gravity Keeps My Head Down…” A Beautiful Hole. Blogger.com. Web. 10 March 2011.
2. “What Articles are Factual About Music?” Weegy.com. Weegy. N.d. Web. 10 March 2011.