Learn the differences between Popular, Scholarly & Substantive Resources!
A Good Source
A good source for a paper meets the following criteria:
It was created by someone who knows what they are talking about.
This means they are either an expert in their field or have first-hand knowledge of what you are talking a witness to an event would fit into this category.
In practice, this means look at who wrote the source and check their credentials. It is never a 100% guarantee, but if the person who wrote your source is an expert in the field, it is probably a source you want to use.
It was created by someone who could be held to account if they misrepresented the facts.
Generally, this means peer review. Any database accessible journal article will be peer reviewed. Textbooks also fall into this category
Sources that are not peer reviewed, but also count, include government publications, corporate publications with enforceable legal standards of accuracy attached to them, such as financial reports, census documents, blueprints, etc.
In practice, this means that you can generally trust information in the resources provided by academic databases & journals, government websites and in other official records. Or those sources where there is some other legal or professional standard of accuracy.
It does not present itself as unbiased or 100% utterly definitive.
All information is created or interpreted by humans with certain perspective and beliefs that create inherent bias in a work. All sources are biased. Period. The sign of a good source is that it deals with the other perspectives regarding an issue through some method, or at least mentions that they exist.
Also, a good source supports their own argument exactly like you by citing information.
In practice, if a potential resource makes a qualified, well supported argument with citations or other proof it is probably a good resource, and the more support it has the better it is. [Again, exactly like your own papers.]
It can be cited effectively.
Just for the sake of usability, it is a good idea to only use sources that you and the professor can both easily find and understand the language of. On those grounds, citing a Reddit post written in Korean is rarely a good idea.
In practice, a good source will be from an academic database [this includes google scholar], a book, or a stable and official website where it can be retrieved again.
Particularly in today's media-saturated world, it is important to understand a bit about bias. There is a lot to say on the subject, but here are a few key points
Bias, in the academic sense, is the way that the perspective of a work’s creator influences the results of their work: from what they feel is worth writing about, to what they choose to focus on inside their writing, to how they assume their work will be used and understood, and even the language they use in writing. Bias can be considered synonymous with perspective or assumptions, in this context.
Bias is everywhere because Humans are not standardized. We are born, grow, and live in different contexts, seeing and experiencing different things. This informs how we view and interpret and interact with the world and affects all our creations and works. Everyone has a natural bias. When reading a work, is it important to see and understand the writer’s bias, and how that effects the work to understand it properly. Bias is only bad if you don’t realize it’s there
In practical terms, the following are bad sign that indicate biased works that would be preferable to avoid. Remember that these are guidelines, not definite rules.
quotes, numerical-data, or anecdotal stories presented without context, citations, or appropriate supporting information.
omission of other potential causes or arguments against the works thesis.
disparages or attacks competing arguments, instead of dealing with them through logical argument.
the work was created by a person or organization with an open, extensive, history of creating biased works.
There are many nuances I am skipping, because the a bias takes – what to look for, what particular resources to avoid, etc. - varies from subject to subject, even within a given field of study. Your professors and the Library can help you with the particulars.
This example is fairly generic in structure, and deviations from it are fine so long as you structure them to read well and cover all points necessary to support your thesis.
I. Intro [1, MAYBE 2 paragraphs]
a. Introduce topic [Trade Monopolies]
b. Introduce thesis [Trade monopolies were a major contributing factor for the development of colonial empires....]
Introduce sub-points [as few/many as required/desired] [..above other factors because they  developed markets abroad and capital at home  They spurred the development of new administrative/business ideas  They became so important to their states that direct control was required.
c. Lay out what rest of paper does in supporting thesis. [ I will show how x is true because of y evidence]
II. Body [as long as needed, but no longer]
a. First Argument [Development of Trade]
1. State argument [Define any needed terms & qualifications here: I.e. explain what a 'Trade Monopoly' is in the context you are using it.]
2. Support for argument [Economic records if available, citations from textbooks/monographs]
3. Arguments against [Same evidence as above] [NOTE: Arguments against all arguments may be grouped together and placed in conclusion depending on writing style.]
4. Synthesize arguments for/against idea seen above to reach own conclusion @ tie to thesis [despite some discrepancies noted by X, the data from Y shows that trade monopolies clearly stimulated the development of market Z in country #]
b. Second Argument [Development of institutions]
Repeat steps 1-4 as above
c. Third Argument
Repeat steps 1-4 as above
III. Conclusion [1-3 Paragraphs, depending on ground left to cover]
a. Review arguments In brief
b. Add any qualifying data/arguments against your thesis here if not already done.
c. Tie back to your thesis to conclude your point [Based on the evidence, Trade Monopolies clearly were a key factor in laying the groundwork - both socially and economically - for the existence of colonial empires.
d. Talk about areas for further enquiry [things you wanted to talk more about but couldn't for some reason] and end by either reaffirming the importance of the thesis/topic [best practice] or saying something both relevant and witty that will put a smile on your readers face.