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Types of Sources

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

Scholarly vs Popular Sources

Scholarly/Academic Sources Popular Sources
Examples: Peer-reviewed journal articles and books/book chapters Magazines and newspapers 
Author is usually:

Scholar in field, academic, or researcher  

Staff Writer, journalist, often a generalist

Credit/Sources: Always many references and/or footnotes          

Rarely cites sources, original sources may be obscure

Length: Articles and chapters are typically 10+ pages Usually brief 
Advertisements: Usually do not contain ads Usually have ads 


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