First consider the purpose of your sources.
What do you hope to accomplish by using sources? Some common reasons you might use sources in your own work include:
Adapted from Yale College Writing Center's "Using Sources" webpage.
When using sources for research assignments...
you'll also want to look at if certain types of sources are recommended or required. Some professors require you to use only scholarly peer-reviewed journals, primary sources, newspapers, or books from the library, while others might leave things more open-ended.
Consider the types of evidence needed to answer your research question or make your argument.
|If you need:||Try using:|
|Expert evidence||Scholarly articles, books, and statistical data|
|Public or individual opinion on an issue||Newspapers, magazines, and websites|
|Basic facts about an event||Newspapers, books, encyclopedias like Wikipedia (for older events)|
|Eye-witness accounts||Newspapers, primary sources (in books or the web)|
|A general overview of a topic||Books or encyclopedias|
|Information about a very recent topic||Websites, newspapers, and magazines|
|Local information||Newspapers, websites, and books|
|Information from professionals working in the field||Professional/trade journals|
Common Terms for Source Types
Scholarly article: written by an expert in the field and reviewed by peers in the field, include references and have a academic style.
Learn more about what "peer-reviewed" means or how to determine if an article is peer-reviewed.
Note: In many databases, you can limit your search to scholarly, peer-reviewed or refereed journals. However, this option is not perfect, as it may also remove some peer-reviewed content that is still peer-reviewed.
Professional/trade article: published in trade or professional journals and written by experts in the field or by staff writers, mainly intended for professionals in a given field but generally easier to read than most scholarly articles, not 'scholarly' but may still have useful information.
Examples: School Library Journal, Harvard Business Review, Engineering and Mining Journal, and American Biology Teacher.
Popular journals: written for a general audience.
Examples: The New Yorker, People, and Rolling Stone
Primary source: created during the period being studied, documents what is being studied in some way.
Examples: newspaper articles from the time period, government documents, letters, diaries, autobiographies, speeches, oral histories, museum artifacts, and photographs.
Secondary source: one step removed from an event, analyzes primary sources.
Examples: a book about World War II based on records from the time, a journal article about Chinese immigrants to Portland. (Most books and articles are secondary sources.)
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