This post is probably completely irrelevant to anyone who reads my blog on any sort of regular basis, but maybe someone will be redirected here by a random Google search. As you may know if you’ve been reading my blog for a while (which you probably haven’t for the aforementioned reason), I’m a student. Having to Write an Essay is a constant state
of anxiety for me. I’m not saying my essays are perfect (I feel like they would be much more entertaining if I could use my authentic writing style, but apparently informal writing and mediocre jokes are frowned upon in the academic world), but I did manage to get my B.A. last summer, so I must be doing something right. Obviously this qualifies me to share my wise knowledge with you.
Disclaimer: I am not actually any sort of expert or authority on this, so if you mess up your essay don’t point to me.
As someone who is usually either traveling, or curled up at home (there is no in between), I rely heavily on online resources to write my essays. Obviously I need to put a disclaimer here to say that online resources don’t replace a good university library etc. etc., but even if you’re the kind of person who frequently collapses under the weight of thirty library books as you attempt to carry them home, online resources can be a good complementary resource. If your university experience is anything like mine, you’ve probably been told about how to make sure you’re using academic, peer-reviewed resources without plagiarizing more times than you can count, so I’ll skip that part.
Below, I’ve collected a short, non-comprehensive list of my favorite online resources with comments (because this is a review website after all).
This is my favorite, so it goes first. I wish I had known about it from the start of my studies, because it would have saved me a lot of frustration. The website has an easy layout and loads of recent articles from academic journals, so your reference list will actually include some texts from this century. Once you’ve found an article you want to use, you just click on “get access” and choose your institution to log in. (This may not work for everyone, but both the universities I studied at provided me with access, so give it a try.)
This one is very well-known and basically works like the above. If your university has an agreement with them, you should be able to use this site to find articles related to your subject. I personally prefer tandfonline.com, but this site has definitely helped me in the past.
Alright, so this one is slightly less intuitive, but it can be very helpful. On the login page, you need to choose the Shibboleth login, select your country from the dropdown and then log in via your institution. Once you’ve done that, you can select the databases which are relevant to you (or just select all) and search for your relevant topic. After that, it works pretty much like any of the above.
I’m not sure this one’s even worth mentioning, but I didn’t know about it in my first semester, so I’ll just include it. Google has a specific search function for scholarly articles you can use to find academic material. I find it to be less reliant than the other sites I’ve mentioned and haven’t used it much, but maybe it helps some people. I’d definitely triplecheck the sources you’re finding are actually academically relevant though.
And that’s it! There’s about 10.000 other great databanks, but these are the ones I found most helpful (well, not so much Google Scholar, but I imagine other people might). My degrees are both humanities/social sciences related, so there’s probably a lot of good natural science resources out there that I don’t know about.
One of the things that probably frustrated me the most during my undergrad was writing my reference list/bibliography. Then I realised that a lot of the online databanks I just mentioned have tools to create the reference for you – if you download an article on tandfonline.com, the first page of the pdf will be automatically formatted and usually includes all the relevant information on how to quote the article. If you find something on jstor.org, you can even choose your citation style and the website will generate the reference for you. EBSCOhost has a similar function.
A lot of websites have tools like this, and they can be a great help. Obviously you still need to adapt the automated references to the referencing style your university requires you to use, and you definitely need to doublecheck they’re correct, but it’s nice not to have to start from scratch.
Your university probably has a much more comprehensive list of databanks and online resources on their website, and it may be tailored to the ones for which they actually provide you access, so I’d recommend checking that out. I know it sounds patronising, but I didn’t check my university website for this when I started studying, and they actually had a very detailed and helpful list.
And that’s it! I’m not sure anyone who might find it helpful will ever read it, but I figured I’d write it down just in case. Good luck with your essay!
If you share any of my procrastination habits, you’ll need it.