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Academically Acceptable Online Sources for University Exams and Essays

Updated on August 1, 2012
The graduating class of 2009 for ICS Addis Ababa.  Photo Author: Jimlaneyjr.   Public Domain Image.
The graduating class of 2009 for ICS Addis Ababa. Photo Author: Jimlaneyjr. Public Domain Image. | Source

There are thousands of academically acceptable websites, most attached to universities and other institutions. This is a list of the most popular in various disciplines from medical science to English literature. Links to some of the sites are at the end of the article.

Jstor has a huge range of academic journals scanned into its databases, going back many years to bring you the very best research in humanities, sciences and many other disciplines. To access Jstor you must be on your university network, or logged in remotely to it with either a staff or student ID.

National Statistics Office (UK)
The UK government’s statistical data collected from every local authority in the UK. The data is concerned with social statistics and census information, and is free for anyone to use without registration or logging in. Pre-analysed data is available in the ‘neighbourhood statistics’ section, which is data for employment, education, economic participation, disability and many other measures.

United Nations Food and Agriculture Statistics
This has a wealth of statistical data on the food and agriculture organisation of the united nations. If you want to know how much tea is in China, or the gross crop production of Ireland, FAOStat is the place to go.

World Health Organisation
This organisation is widely respected and tries to remain unbiased in its work and writing, so referencing an article of the WHO website is usually acceptable, and in fact ca be very useful in essays on subjects like philosophy, religion, history and social and political sciences.

Online Academic Journals
If you are a student at a university, you will have access through your institution’s library to most online versions of academic journals, and will be able to download papers and articles in PDF form, or other format, like e-books. Doing a Google search on the topic of your essay and prefixing it with ‘Research:’ may help you find these journals, or your university’s library homepage may have a ‘discovery’ section that will point you in the right direction.

University Websites
Many large and prestigious universities like Oxford, Cambridge, MIT and Harvard allow access (sometimes through your university, but some of it is free public access) to some of their online resources. UK academic websites’ URLs end in and US academic websites’ URLs end in .edu. Adding the name of a university to your search in Google can bring up a lot of articles and resources that are difficult to find otherwise.

Literature Online
This is another academic website that must be accessed through a university network with a staff or student login. It contains articles by academics and students, and also the full text of some books, poems, pamphlets and other literature that are hard to get hold of in print or elsewhere online.

Everyone and anyone with Internet access can read abstracts, and some full papers, of medical experiments, studies and projects. The database is part of the US National Institute of Health, but the research it contains is from worldwide and highly respected scientists. Well worth a look, even if you are not a science major.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Stanford University)
Written by academics, there are thousands and thousands of in-depth articles explaining and discussing philosophers and their philosophies from the ancient to the modern. The most respected online database of philosophical information in the world.

Government Websites
All government websites are sources that can be quoted in academic essays or exams. Whether you are arguing against government policies in a political sciences essay, or are comparing social models of different countries for an anthropology exam, whether those policies are morally right or not, government websites are perfectly acceptable sources. Government websites’ URLs end in .gov.X where X is the specific country – so for the UK the URL ends and for Pakistan the URL ends

Gutenberg Project
This is a project that puts the full text of out-of-copyright (in the US) literary works online. It is freely available to all, and is an incredible resource, even more so since it began too make some of its books available for Kindle, reducing eye strain for those of us who hate to read from a laptop screen.

News and Newspapers
Other sources might include sites like the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), not because it is academic or unbiased, but because their journalists and researchers are highly educated and trained, so that their work is usually fully sourced with links to the origination of the facts of a piece (if it is not filmed, eye-witness material). It is always acceptable to quote any in-print source or media broadcast if it is both relevant to the essay, and it is possible to include a full and verifiable citation. Archives of newspapers and magazines are often available through a link on your university library homepage.

Wikipedia is NEVER an acceptable source for any academic work. However, follow the links at the bottom of a Wikipedia article, as some of them lead to very respectable online resources like university, government and statistics websites.


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    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 4 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      I'm a big fan of Gutenberg Project. I've read so many classics and hard to find books here. I'm fan of book but online and digital content is good enough to enjoy information.

    • Redberry Sky profile image

      Redberry Sky 4 years ago

      jpcmc - I agree, Gutenberg is great for just getting free reading material from too, I've read lots of their stuff both for pleasure and academically. Great free resource.

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 4 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Plus Gutenberg Project offers different formats for the user. They even have audio files for download. I sound like a home TV shopping announcer. :)

    • profile image

      ElleBee 4 years ago

      I have no need for academic sources myself at the moment, but I'd say this is great advice. Also reaaly happy for the link to the Gutenberg project! I'm a new Kindle owner looking for free book resources :)

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