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Assignment | Astronomy Research Paper (Moturu): Finding Your Sources

PHYS 1403 & PHYS 1404 | Prof. Sarada Moturu (Fall 2021)

No Encyclopedias

No encylopediasEncyclopedias serve to give general overviews and summaries of topics. They don't get into the in-depth information you should be seeking for a college-level research paper.

Examples of encyclopedias include: Encyclopedia Britannica, Wikipedia, and any other source that only provides that shallow level of information.

Shallow vs Deep Information

Shallow information is trivia: e.g. this satellite was built in 1974, cost $8m to create, launched in 1975, travels at 10k mph, and so on. This is good to know and informs your deeper analysis! But it's not the thoughtful analysis you want to focus on. Also, you can get that kind of info from e.g. NASA's own website, straight from the horse's mouth, which is better typically.

No Random Websites / Focus on .edu, .gov

No random websitesResearch means more than just Googling some likely terms and picking something easy off the first page of results. Consider:

Besides keywords, there are an estimated 200 factors that affect Google's page rankings, including:

  • sites paying to promote their pages,
  • what computer and browser you're using,
  • when the site was last updated,
  • how the site is structured,
  • what other people have clicked on or linked to,
  • and even what kind of pages you've searched for in the past.

Notice that "accuracy" or "reliability" don't make the list.

You can streamline the quality of your Google searches by focusing on government (.gov) and education (.edu) domains in your results.

  • .gov is the most strict to register -- non-government entities can't get it!
  • .edu is mostly universities, but you'll sometimes come across some K-12 entities with this domain.
    • The big thing to watch out for is that you're not finding a student paper or project that's been posted on the university domain. Presumably their work is pretty good since it's being shown off publicly, but undergrads are not yet academic experts in their fields (sorry).


Google has some advanced search commands to make this quicker. Just add site:___ to your search! E.g. or even just Try it below!


Google Web Search

Caution! NASA, for example, has a number of informative pages addressed to children in 8th grade or lower. These are not appropriate sources for college students, even though the source is reliable.



The e-book collections offer several advantages: instant online-access, no need to check-out the book, and you can easily search inside to jump to your search terms.

Scholarly Articles

scholarly articlesScholarly articles are some of the best, most authoritative kinds of articles you can read, and are typically how new knowledge is disseminated. They also tend to have a very narrow focus: if a Wikipedia article is just about Kuiper belt objects in general, a related scholarly article might be more specifically on "An exploration of the Kozai resonance in the Kuiper BeltLSC barcode required to view article or "Formation of Kuiper-belt binaries through multiple chaotic scattering encounters with low-mass intruders."LSC barcode required to view article


For this assignment, honestly, this type of research might be a little bit overkill. (Or will it take your paper to new heights? I suggest taking a peek in at least Academic Search Complete just to see what's out there and then decide if you can make use of it.)


space magazines Chances are you're going to be reading articles online. Distinguishing between purely digital sources and the online versions of print magazines and newspapers is a bit of non-starter: visually, you're not going to notice anything different. Your citations also will not indicate what type of website this is exactly, either, other than the publisher probably being very specific.


TextbookYou may use your textbook as a source, but it will not count towards your three required sources.

Evaluating Information

The CRAAP Test

Evaluate your source's...


CRAAP test factors: Currency, Relevance, Accuracy, Authority, Purpose

Also, The Three Rs

Is your source
Recent? Reliable? Relevant?

Is this source up-to-date? Is it about my topic, and does it go into enough depth? Does it come from an authoritative source? Is the information accurate (and are there citations given to back it up)? And why was this information written in the first place?

Accessing the Databases

Access online library materials through the library databases!

Student ID BadgeTo access the databases locked icon (same icon that displays by the LSC-limited access resources) from off-campus, you will be prompted to enter your 14-digit library barcode.

Don't have one yet? Request a barcode number online.

Managing Your Research

Your process to capture sources and citations will be very individual, but be consistent and choose a tool to help organize your research. Some suggested tools:


OneDrive - 1 TB free storage for Lone Star College students.


Evernote - The basic version is free. Works across all mobile devices. Create notebooks for each course or writing assignment. Be sure to download the Web Clipper as well.


Zotero is a free, open access extension that runs in the Firefox and Chrome browsers that's designed to gather, download, and tag your research. Helpful tutorials.


ZoteroBib is a free citation tool that supports MLA, APA, CMOS, and thousands of others. Use this instead of the full Zotero if you just need some quick citations.