Types of Sources
We live in an age overflowing with sources of information. With so many information sources at our fingertips, knowing where to start, sorting through it all and finding what we want can be overwhelming! This handout provides answers to the following research-related questions: Where do I begin? Where should I look for information? What types of sources are available?
Contributors:Dana Lynn Driscoll, Karl Stolley
Last Edited: 2018-02-09 01:19:36
The amount of information available to us can be overwhelming and confusing. This section provides a list of common types of sources and what information you can discover from each.
Traditional print sources
Books and Textbooks: Books present a multitude of topics. Because of the time it takes to publish a book, books usually contain more dated information than will be found in journals and newspapers.
Newspapers: Newspapers contain very up-to-date information by covering the latest events and trends. Newspapers report both information that is factual in nature and also share opinions. Generally, however, they will not take a “big picture” approach or contain information about larger trends.
Academic and Trade Journals: Academic and trade journals contain the most up-to-date information and research in industry, business, and academia. Journal articles come in several forms, including literature reviews that overview current and past research, articles on theories and history, or articles on specific processes or research.
Government Reports and Legal Documents: The government releases information intended for its own use or for public use. These types of documents can be an excellent source of information. An example of a government report is the U.S. Census data. Most government reports and legal documents can now be accessed online.
Press Releases and Advertising: Companies and special interest groups produce texts to help persuade readers to act in some way or inform the public about some new development.
Flyers, Pamphlets, Leaflets: While some flyers or pamphlets are created by reputable sources, because of the ease in which they are created, many less-than-reputable sources also produce these. They are useful for quick reference or very general information.
Multimedia: Printed material is certainly not the only option for finding research. Also consider media sources such as radio and television broadcasts, interactive talks, and public meetings. Though we often go online for this information, libraries and archives often have a wealth of nondigitized media or media that is not available online.
Websites: Most of the information on the Internet is distributed via websites. Websites vary widely in quality of information and validity of sources.
Blogs and personal websites: Blogs and personal sites vary widely in quality of information and validity of sources. For example, many prestigious journalists and public figures may have blogs, which may be more credible of a blog than most.
Social media, message boards, discussion lists, and chat rooms: These types of sources exist for all kinds of disciplines, both in and outside of the university. Some may be useful, depending on the topic you are studying, but just like personal websites, the information is not always credible.
Multimedia: The Internet has a multitude of multimedia resources including online broadcasts and news, images, audio files, podcasts and interactive websites.
When searching for articles, it's important to know what type of source, or periodical in which the articles are published. This is beacuse each type has its own purpose, intent, audience, etc. This guide lists criteria to help you identify scholarly journals, trade journals, and magazines. It is the first step in critically evaluating your source of information. Determining what makes a journal scholarly is not a clear-cut process, but there are many indicators which can help you.
- Reports original research or experimentation
- Articles written by an expert in the field for other experts in the field
- Articles use specialized jargon of the discipline
- Articles undergo peer review process before acceptance for publication in order to assure creative content
- Authors of articles always cite their sources in the form of footnotes or bibliographies
Journal of Asian Studies
A note about "peer review." Peer review insures that the research reported in a journal's article is sound and of high quality. Sometimes the term "refereed" is used instead of peer review.
- Discusses practical information in industry
- Contains news, product information, advertising, and trade articles
- Contains information on current trends in technology
- Articles usually written by experts in the field for other experts in the field
- Articles use specialized jargon of the discipline
- Useful to people in the trade field and to people seeking orientation to a vocation
General Interest Magazines
- Provides information in a general manner to a broad audience
- Articles generally written by a member of the editorial staff or a freelance writer
- Language of articles geared to any educated audience, no subject expertise assumed
- Articles are often heavily illustrated, generally with photographs
- No peer review process
- Sources are sometimes cited, but more often there are no footnotes or bibliography
- Articles are short and written in simple language with little depth to the content of these articles
- The purpose is generally to entertain, not necessarily inform
- Information published in popular magazines is often second-or third-hand
- The original source of information contained in articles is obscure
- Articles are written by staff members or freelance writers
How do you find scholarly journals?
The McQuade Library has many online periodical databases which contain scholarly journal articles. Databases such as EBSCOhost and INFOTRAC allow you to limit your search to peer reviewed or refereed journals.
If you have found an article and are not sure if it is scholarly or not you can find out by consulting the following books located in the Reference Room:
LaGuardia, Cheryl, Magazines for Libraries, 12th ed., New Providence, NJ: R.R. Bowker. (Ref Z 6941 .K2 2003)
Ulrich's International Periodicals Directory, New York: Bowker, 2003. (Ref Z 6941 .U5 2003)
If you need assistance or require further information please ask a librarian.
The information contained in this brochure was adapted from Working with Faculty to Design Undergraduate Information Literacy Programs: A How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians by Rosemary Young, New York: Neal Schuman, 1999. (Updated 01/07/04)