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Research Sources: Home

This guide provides an overview of the different types of research sources and how each source can be used.

Welcome

This guide provides information on the different types of sources and the characteristics of each type. After reviewing the information on this page, use the activity to test your knowledge.

Types of Sources

Primary Sources

Primary sources are original materials that are from the period of time of its creation. These types of sources have not been interpreted or evaluated. They are often a direct personal experience or creation. Primary sources often present original thinking, report a discovery or share new information and often form the basis for other research. Some examples of this type of source include:

Diaries, interviews, works of art, patents, memoirs, speeches, artifacts, photographs, films, raw data, surveys, archival materials, letters, emails.

Secondary Sources

Secondary sources are less easily defined than primary sources. These sources, unlike primary sources, are created after the event with the benefit of hindsight. These documents are created by people who were not present at the moment the event occurred. Instead, they interpret, evaluate, analyze, discuss and comment upon the primary sources. Secondary sources are not first hand experiences, but rather commentary on of discussion of primary sources. Some examples of this type of source include:

Review articles, handbooks, book reviews, literacy criticisms, textbooks, encyclopedias, annotated bibliographies, analysis of data

Tertiary Sources

Tertiary sources are a collection of primary and secondary sources. Some examples of this type of source include:

Fact books, guidebooks, manuals, indexes, directories, databases, abstracts.

Scholarly and Popular Sources

Popular Sources (Magazines):

  • Are often written by journalists or professional writers for a general audience
  • Use language easily understood by general readers
  • Rarely give full citations for sources
  • Written for the general public
  • Tend to be shorter than journal articles

Scholarly Sources (Journals):

  • Are written by and for faculty, researchers or scholars (chemists, historians, doctors, artists, etc.)
  • Uses scholarly or technical language
  • Tend to be longer articles about research
  • Include full citations for sources 
  • Are often refereed or peer reviewed (articles are reviewed by an editor and other specialists before being accepted for publication)
  • Book reviews and editorials are not considered scholarly articles, even when found in scholarly journals

Magazine or Journal

Magazines and journals can be divided into four broad categories scholarlypopular, general interest, and trade. Each of these categories of publications have a different purpose and audience. An important difference between a scholar journal and the other types of publications is that a scholarly journal can be peer reviewed. This short video, Peer Review in Three Minutes discusses what is peer review and why it is important for research.

Scholarly

Popular

Trade

Written by

Experts in a particular field such as professors or researchers. These articles may have more than one author. The language is sometimes complex and terminology used is subject related.

Journalists, staff writers, or freelance writers, normally opinion articles. These articles usually have only one author which is not always stated. The language is often simply.

Specialists in the particular field of the journal. These articles usually have only one author which is not always stated. The language used is specialized to the field.

Written for

Other experts or researchers interested in the topic. Other authorities and scholars in the field. The tone of these articles is formal.

A general audience with the purposes to entertain. The tone is usually informal

Other specialists in the fields with the purpose of providing practical information and news.

Sources cited

Sources are cited in a formal style using in text citations, endnotes, footnotes, or bibliographies or work cited.

Sources may or may not be mentioned without the use of a formal citation style.

Sources may be cited but without the use of a formal citation style.

Appearance

Not many images, pictures or advertisements. If there are any images, they are probably charts, graphs, or tables. Normally has formal sections such as abstract, methodology, findings, results, conclusions, bibliography, etc.

Many images, pictures or advertisements. Usually short articles with no formal sections such as abstract, methodology, findings, results, conclusions, bibliography, etc.

Not many images, pictures or advertisements. If there are any images, they are probably charts, graphs, or tables. Does not normally have formal sections such as abstract, methodology, findings, results, conclusions, bibliography, etc.

Peer review

Yes

No

No

Examples

  • Journal of Chemical Technology & Metallurgy
  • American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education
  • Journal of Competitiveness
  • Time
  • Newsweek
  • National Geographic
  • Enquirer
  • Fire Chief
  • Energy News
  • Advertising Age
  • Chemical Week
  • Accounting Today
  • Waste & Recycling News
  • Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration News

Library Databases

Scholarly articles can be easily located using your library's databases. These databases are subscription based, so you will need to log in through Atlas in order to access and search these databases. To connect to the library via Atlas, follow the steps below:

1. Log in to Atlas: http://atlas.valenciacollege.edu

2. Go to the Courses tab

3. Click Search the Library

4. Click on the Databases A-Z link at the top of the page

5. Select the database who would like to search.

Test Yourself