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Great Problems Seminar (GPS): Types of Information

Great Problems Seminar (GPS) resources at the library

Source Types

Source types make up the scope of the literature you are searching. Common source types include:

  • Books that encompass a single work
  • Books that incorporate many works (encyclopedias, anthologies, etc.)
  • Journal articles (sometimes peer-reviewed)
  • Conference Papers
  • Technical Reports
  • Magazine articles
  • Data & Statistics
  • Blog posts
  • Websites


Books are excellent sources for information such as:

  • Broad overview of a complex topic
  • In-depth information
  • Background and contextual information, such as the history and chronology of a given topic
  • Discovering resources through bibliographies and suggested readings lists

"But I don't have time to read a whole book!" 

It's ok, you don't have to read a book cover to cover! To determine how useful a book might be, first skim through the following parts: 

  • Title Page - look at authors (credentials?), date of publication
  • Table of Contents - look at chapter titles to get an idea what the book is really about. Are any chapters relevant to your topic? You usually don't need to read every chapter, just those that are relevant!
  • Index - Look for specific terms relevant to your topic, also note any potential new terms that can be used later as search terms in a database
  • Preface/Forward/Introduction - usually highlights the author's purpose/intention for writing the book
  • Bibliography (either at the end of each chapter or end of the book) - find additional resources!​


Where to start?

WPI Library Search 

Use WPI Library Search by typing in your search terms, and in the results list, look at the filters on the left side of the page. There, you can easily narrow down your results by 'Resource Types' to find only books or book chapters.

Helpful Databases

Databases are simply collections of online resources, such as scholarly and popular articles, eBooks, statistics, and more. Usually databases center around a particular subject. Below are some databases I think would be particularly helpful for you to use for this class.