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Research 101: Identifying Sources


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Not sure if you're looking at an electronic journal article, an eBook chapter, or an online newspaper article? Take a look at the chart below to get a better idea on how to identify sources!

What is the Difference Between...?

Source Type Purpose Format Examples Where to Find Them
Books Breadth of coverage on a topic. Can provide overviews, historical contexts, or focus on sub-topic(s). Print and digital (eBooks) Library catalog, databases, and search engines (i.e., Google)

Periodicals: Newspapers

Provides current information (can be local, national, or international), editorials, commentary, sports information, etc.  Print and digital

*These links lead to newspapers that are available through the library

Search engines, databases, and library catalog
Periodicals: Magazines Information on pop culture, current events, or non-specialist articles written for a general audience Print and digital  Search engines, library catalog, and some in databases
Periodicals: Journals Provides scholarly or academic research that is very in-depth and focused. Written in a technical language from the subject area. Often will have the word "journal" in the title. Includes parts like abstract, introduction, methods, conclusion, etc.  Print and digital Databases, library catalog, and some search engines
Website Content Provides news, entertainment, and other information. Good for starting research as they usually provide general, background information.  Digital Search engines 

 

Popular v. Scholarly

Popular sources are typically written for a general audience. They often include photos or advertisements with little to no reference to outside sources. 

Scholarly sources are written by experts in a particular field for scholars and researchers. These detailed sources have specific vocabulary, citations, and are usually peer-reviewed by experts in the field. 

Peer-review is a process where a panel of experts in a field reviews a source before it is published to make sure the information is reliable and credible. The panel makes their suggestions to the author(s) as needed, then those changes are applied. Usually another review is conducted before the source is published.