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How to Write an Undergraduate-Level Essay

Step-by-step guidance and resources for planning, researching, and writing essays as an undergraduate student

Become familiar with information sources

Information comes in a variety of packages, including:

  • books
  • journal articles
  • conference proceedings
  • government documents
  • policy briefs
  • reports
  • white papers
  • laws and legislation
  • statistics and data
  • newspapers
  • blogs
  • video sharing sites (e.g. YouTube)

Scholarly books, journal articles and conference proceedings are typically the most valued types of academic publishing. Academics and students alike are usually required to cite these kinds of sources when writing academic papers. Depending on your topic, though, other document types can be useful as well. Grey literature, for example, written by subject expects and published by governments or research groups, can be very relevant and reliable. Trade journals, written for practitioners rather than scholars, offer a perspective not included in scholarly literature.

Depending on your topic you will likely have to look in a variety of places to find what you need. It is unrealistic to expect to find everything using simple Google searches.  While Google can be a good place to get grounded in your topic, it does not do a good job of providing what you need to support your academic papers. 

The next pages will introduce you to the various search tools available, effective search techniques to use with those tools, and strategies to evaluate the quality of the information you find.