How To Choose Sources For An Acid Rain Essay

Acid rain is one of the more depressing problems caused by pollution. Many chemicals become acids when dissolved in water, and if that happens inside a cloud the resulting rain can be pretty bad for whatever it falls on. This makes it a popular topic for essays at all levels of academia, from primary schools to postgraduate degrees. This very popularity, though, makes it especially important to match sources to the intended final product.


Primary sources

If you are a university undergraduate, you will probably be expected to cite at least some primary sources. That is, you will be expected to have read, used and cited original research published in a reputable, peer-reviewed journal. You can find yourself skimming through a great deal that is beside the point of your essay. Be brutal. Use the abstracts and don’t get tied down in papers that are obviously not related to your subject. It’s always worth having a quick look at any graphs to judge the emphasis and significance of the paper. Consider the date of sources – more recent sources are generally better. Also consider the journal itself – an article published in a prestigious journal such as Nature will probably be a far better choice than something published in a more minor journal.

Ask the librarians in your educational institution about the online subscriptions your institution may have to various journals – they always seem delighted to be asked this question.

Even if you are still at the pre-university stage in your education, references to at least some primary sources will improve the quality of your essay. They’re even required to get a top grade in some qualifications.


Secondary sources

These are likely to include subject-specific magazines, such as New Scientist and Scientific American, as well as general interest articles in newspapers and often books. Their main value lies in giving you a pre-digested overview of the topic. Generally they may not come with abstracts, though, so you might need to read quite  a lot of it before you can tell if it’s helpful or not.


“Something I found on the internet.”

The internet can of course be an excellent place to start. However, you need to view the author and publisher of any piece you reference with great caution. (Use even greater caution if they are anonymous.) Anyone can write anything they want on the internet. Many a promising essay has slid from an A grade way down the scale by a student cutting this particular corner; it’s easy to be fooled by a professional-looking website.


Consider the essay and your course

The exact title of the essay matters hugely. You may have been lucky enough to be allowed to choose you own exact title. Even so, you need to be careful to stick with it, or alter it if that is permitted.

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