The types of sources you use play a huge part in the grades that your essays get, whether you believe it or not. It is essential that you use appropriate sources if you are looking to get the best grades at any level of study. Looking beyond the normal sources can show that you have searched every avenue of research and that the conclusion you have come to has been based on more than a last minute scramble for library books.

1. Journals

Journals will give you specific insight, often related to topics with a lot narrower focus than your own. If you show your ability to take pieces of relevant information from a source that on the whole might not be, then you are showing your ability to analyse sources based on their individual merit, you are also showing your lecturer that you looked high and low for appropriate source material- this always wins brownie points.

2. Newspaper articles/ Archival Evidence

This one is obviously going to be dependent on the type of degree you do. However if you are doing a humanities subject you should definitely make sure that you check out the newspaper archives. Opinions of people and things change over time; you never know what you might discover in popular newspapers from days gone by.

3. Audio and Video files

This is something that is becoming increasingly important in the 21st century, lecturers want to see that you’re aware of the growing volume of audio and video source material. When most people think about university they are consumed by the idea of the library and paper sources, in reality more and more sources are available on line and in lots of different mediums.

4. Current/ Contemporary Sources

Whether the sources you use will need to entirely new will also be dependent on what type of degree you do. However, it is important to show your lecturer through your reference list that you are aware of the current literature and opinion surrounding your topic area. It shows that you’re conscious that opinion changes over time.

5. Key Sources

This one might seem simple but so many students do not use the sources recommended by their tutor. Imagine that you’re the tutor and you’ve put together a list of key sources for your students to use – only to find that not a single one of the sources is evident in their work! Infuriating! Make sure that you use at least a couple of the sources recommended, they are ‘key’ for a reason after all.

If you use all of the sources recommended and take examples of each from reputable sources then you will be able to put together a solid reference list. If your tutor can see that you have looked far and wide for your source material they will sure to be impressed, this will reflect itself in the way they view your work and is bound to have a positive impact on your final grade.


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