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Library Resources for the First Year Student: Finding Information

Join the Conversation by Choosing: 
Types of Sources and S
earch Tools

Source Type Search Tools

Books: Use books to help you find in-depth information and historical context. Consider what you can learn from the table of contents, author, introduction/prefaces, and references. Consider the main arguments or goal of the book and how the book supports its argument. 

WPI Library Search [Search using broad keyword such as Environment and Pollution and Education and then narrow down using filters such as Books/Ebooks]


Encyclopedia/Technical Handbook: Use encyclopedias and technical handbooks to help you find facts, definitions, and overview information about an event, process, material, or individuals.

AccessScience and CRCnetBase [Search using terms and keywords and concepts such as Agriculture and hydroponics

Newspaper Article: Use newspaper articles to find facts and opinions about an event or topic during the time it happened. New York Times (current) and Nexis Uni [Try searching on a particular location or event such as Boston and molasses or fire and engineering]
Scholarly Article: Use scholarly articles written by experts to find analysis, methods, procedures, original research data and other evidence about an event, research process, population, culture, literary criticism, and historical period. ScienceDirect and ProjectMuse [Try searching on a particular aspect or perspective of your topic such as Individuals and attitudes and green architecture


Using Web Resources

Using Web Resources

In general, look for websites with a non-biased, balanced approach to presenting sources. Websites produced by educational or governmental institutions often are more reliable than personal websites, but government sites may be subject to propaganda.

Examine the website and consider the purpose, author, currency


Identify the purpose - even if the information is accurate it may have been altered or manipulated in some way to change or influence its meaning.

Discovering the purpose can help determine the reliability of the site and the information it provides.

Look for an agenda — are documents slanted in some way to persuade you? Who is the intended audience? Scholars or experts? General public or novices?


It's important to identify the author of a Web site and to become familiar with the author's qualifications.

Is the name of the author/creator on the page? Are their credentials listed (occupation, years of experience, position or education)?

What does the domain name/URL reveal about the source of the information, if anything?


Is the creation date of the document (or of its most recent revision) listed?

Is the information up-to-date or are the resources outdated? Age is relative on the web: certain documents are timeless and the value is determined completely by their place in the historical record

If footnotes, bibliographies, and hypertext links are used, do they add authority, credibility, or depth to the argument or only seem to do so

Google Web Search

Use search features to focus on one domain type that directs your search away from commercial websites such as .edu, .gov. or .org.  

If you include site: in your query, Google will restrict your search results to the site or domain you specify. For example, [ admissions ] will show admissions information from London School of Economics’ site and [ peace site:gov ] will find pages about peace within the .gov domain. You can specify a domain with or without a period, e.g., either as .gov or gov.

Note: Do not include a space between the “site:” and the domain.

You can also use Google's advanced search form: or learn more about how Google search works:

Expert Information: Scholarly and Primary Sources


Scholarly and Primary Literature

Characteristics of Scholarly Literature

  • The author is an expert (examples are: scholar, professor or researcher)
  • The article was reviewed by experts and meets a standard within the discipline
  • Research, methodology, and references are components of the article
  • Intended for an academic audience
  • Articles have full citations both in-text and a reference list

Types of Primary Literature 

Note that for different disciplines the type of information considered primary literature changes. Some examples include:

  • Humanities: creative works, diaries, letters, interviews, and news publications
  • Sciences: peer-reviewed journal articles, results of experiences, research and clinical trials
  • Social Sciences: census data statistics, peer-reviewed journal articles with results of experiments of human behavior

Frequently used Library Resources for finding scholarly and primary literature in different disciplines

IEEE Xplore

Top resources for engineering experts

Project MUSE

Use ProjectMuse to search a collection of full-text journals for the humanities a key place for finding experts work


Use ScienceDirect to search a collection of full-text peer-reviewed journals for the Sciences and Social Sciences a key place for finding experts work