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Research Basics: Types of Sources

Research Basics

This LibGuide describes various types of information sources and how to find scholarly sources including books, articles, and sources online. It also includes helpful tools to evaluate if a source should be considered scholarly, as well as citation guides for citing information sources.

Popular vs. Scholarly Sources

Popular sources are written for a general audience. They are meant to entertain, inform, and provide some analysis. Popular articles are typically written by individuals who are not experts in the field they are writing about. They generally do not provide references and are usually short, often just a few pages. The authors of popular books may or may not cite their sources and are published by "non-academic" publishing companies.

Scholarly sources are written for a specific audience, usually fellow professionals in the author's field of study. Scholarly articles are written to publicize research, study findings, and other intellectual pursuits. These articles are written by scientists, professors, and other members of academia, and are often several dozen pages long, not including extensive references. Scholarly journal articles are peer-reviewed, meaning they have been reviewed by a panel of experts in that specific field to ensure the article is reliable and worthy of publishing. Scholarly books are usually printed by a university press and are reviewed in scholarly journals by fellow academics.

Types of Sources

Source Type Purpose Format  Target Audience Examples Ways to Find
Book To provide in-depth coverage or analysis of a topic.  Print or digital General public or scholars

The Great Gatsby

The Pioneers

The Hobbit
MC library catalog (print and e-books).
Newspapers To provide information on current events, editorials, sports, popular culture, etc. Print or digital General public

The New York Times

The Washington Post
Print and websites.
Magazines To provide information on current events or popular culture, entertain, etc. Print or digital General public

National Geographic

Time

Better Homes and Gardens
Print, websites, databases (sometimes), public library services such as Overdrive website.
Journals To present analysis or research to members of an academic community. Journal articles are extensively researched and narrowly focused. Print or digital Scholars

The American Historical Review

Journal of the American Mathematical Society

Journal of International Affairs
Print or databases.
Websites To provide information on current events, popular culture, entertainment, etc.  Digital General public

Wikipedia

CNN

YouTube
Via search engines.