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sources in college research paper

How many sources should be used in a college research paper?

Sep 08, 2012
A college research paper is one of the requirements towards obtaining a college degree. A college research paper prepares the students for future research work. It is an academic requirement that should be taken seriously if a student hopes to stand any chance of success in his academic endeavours.

How many sources should be used?

The question of sources to be used in a college research paper depends on some factors
  • INSTITUTION REQUIREMENTS

    In some institutions the level of study of a student will determine the number of sources that should be cited. For example some colleges require B.sc degree students to only use 10 sources when citing their research paper. Some other institutions require more. Most of the times the institutions may not have a specific number of sources that the students are expected to cite. In this case, it is left for the student to decide how many sources he wants to use for his research paper.
  • PERSONAL PREFERENCE

    Most research paper demands that a student uses his best initiatives to determine the number of works to be cited. This requires that the students make a thorough compilation of all the works used during the preparation stages of his research paper. For example, if a student consulted 5 books, 4 journals, and 3 news paper articles during the preparatory stages of his research paper, he is expected to state all these sources in his reference list. His reference list should include 12 sources cited. His in-text reference should be divided between these 12 sources. If the student is to include only ten sources in his reference list, it will be deemed to be a case of plagiarism. That means the student may be penalized for borrowing sources and not acknowledging his use of them. Plagiarism is a serious offence and should be avoided at all cost.
  • TYPE OF RESEARCH PAPER

    The type of research paper that a college student writes will to a large extent determine the number of sources he is going to cite. For example a lengthy essay like a dissertation or even a case study should have many references. This is because it is expected that the student must have read widely to prepare for the essay. For a lengthy essay, there is no way 5 sources are going to suffice for the research purposes. A reference list of at least 15 is considered ideal for in this case. Again, if the student is to write a very short research paper of say about 1000-1500 words, and he cites 30 sources in his work, it will be considered an over kill. Just the mere thought of 30 sources for a 1500 words research paper is enough to get the student penalized. In text citation of 30 sources is enough to take up 1500 words. The rule of thumb here is to go for a small reference list of about 5 to 7.
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