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WAC/Health Sciences

How to Choose Good Sources for College Papers

There are many types of sources that you could use in your papers (journal articles, books, newspapers, interviews, etc.), but not all of them are good sources.  

Good sources give you reliable, accurate information based on real research. You can tell a good source by the following:

  • It is published in a scholarly (peer-reviewed) journal or by a scholarly publishing press (books)
  • It is recent, published within the past 5 years

Bad sources give you faulty, incomplete information that is often based on opinion or hearsay.  You can tell a bad source by the following:

  • It is not scholarly, such as:
    • Newspaper articles
    • Magazine articles
    • Journal articles NOT in peer-reviewed journals
    • Wikipedia
    • Books that are not research-based (popular books rather than academic)
    • Television, movies, or radio
    • Things that you have heard people say
  • It is old, published more than 5 years ago

Here are some steps to follow in order to find a good source:

  1. Do a library search using ProQuest Nursing or the library catalog (
  2. Use key words to search (try different variations)
  3. Only use acceptable books or peer-reviewed journals
  4. Choose articles from within the past 5 years
  5. Read titles to see what looks relevant
  6. Read the abstracts and only choose the most pertinent articles

For example, if you were to try to find articles on the topic of leadership in nursing, you might do the following:

  • Go to ProQuest Nursing on the PCC Library webiste
  • Use the key words "Nursing Leaders" to search, and possibly try other key word combinations as is shown cirlced in red below

Screenshot of Using "Nursing Leaders" Keyword in Library Search

  • Notice that the first page of search results that ProQuest shows you is all sources (266 documents), and narrow that by selecting the "Scholarly Journals" tab, as is shown below (which only contains 132 documents)

Screenshot of Narrowing Search to Scholarly Journals

  • The articles are ordered with most recent first, so most of them are within the past 5 years.  However, pay attention to the year to make sure that you do not select any older articles
  • Look at the titles of the articles, and try to pick some likely articles to look at based on those titles.  Some possibilities for leadership in nursing are shown below cirlced in red

Screenshot of List of Article Titles

  • Finally, look at the abstracts of those articles with likely titles to see if they cover the right information.  For example, the two abstracts below show that the abstract on the left (Wurster, 2007) does not seem like it is about leadership in nursing, while the article on the right (Vander Woude, 2007) seems like it is relevant.
Unlikely Article Likely Article

What Role Can Nurse Leaders Play in Reducing the Incidence Of Pressure Sores?

Joan Wurster. Nursing Economics. Pitman: Sep/Oct 2007. Vol. 25, Iss. 5; pg. 267, 3 pgs

Abstract (Summary)

A skin care plan to prevent tissue injury in patients at risk for developing pressure sores and to promote wound healing in patients with existing breakdown must be developed.

Quality of Life Issues in Nursing Leadership


Diana Vander Woude. Nursing Science Quarterly. Pittsburgh: Jul 2007. Vol. 20, Iss. 3; pg. 222

Abstract (Summary)

Vander Woude discusses how nursing leaders experience and enhance quality of life issues. She explores the discovery of self and others, the processes of how members of a health care community relate to one another, and the importance of leaders who empower rather than command.

  • Download those articles (full text, pdf) that have abstracts most related to your topic.  These are likely good sources for your paper.

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