Types of Sources

So many choices! Use this guide to determine when to use a book, journal, video, encyclopedia or other sources.

Comparing Sources

  Scholarly/Academic Popular Magazines Trade Journals Newspapers
Example: Chemical Engineering Journal Newsweek Advertising Age The New York Times
         
Author is usually: Scholar in field, academic, or researcher   Staff Writer, journalist, often a generalist Staff writer, journalist often with expertise in field   Staff Writer, Journalist
         
Credit/Sources:  Always many references and/or footnotes Rarely cites sources, original sources may be obscure Rarely cites sources Rarely cites sources
         
Structure of Articles: long (10+ page) articles with sections such as abstract, literature review, methodology, results, conclusion Brief articles, unless feature    Brief article, unless feature Brief article, unless feature
         
Look & Feel: "Looks like a book." No color, no ads even in online versions Glossy, graphics, full page advertisements even online versions Glossy, graphics, advertisements, many are large format or online Newsprint or online

Selecting Sources

Select sources after carefully thinking about the types of information that you would like to find.

To find background information or an overview of a topic:

  • Books
  • Encyclopedias

To find up-to-date information on current events:

  • Newspapers
  • Magazines

To find scholarly information on a topic:

  • Scholarly journals

To find additional sources within bibliographies or footnotes:

  • Books
  • Journals
  • Encyclopedias

To discover new research ideas, emerging trends, or to gain an historical perspective on research:

  • Conference Proceedings
  • Technical Reports

To find current news, products, and trends within a specific trade or industry or practical information from practitioners:

  • Trade journals