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English

Introduction to research in English language & literature

Choosing Source Types

Scholarly (Academic) Journals

Audience: scholars, researchers, academics, professionals, students

Good for:

  • Empirical research on a topic  
  • Often peer reviewed (verified by other experts in the field)  
  • May include data, charts, tables, graphs, statistics, etc.  
  • Builds off existing knowledge in the field (cites credible sources)  

Be careful / consider:

  • Jargon or terminology may be difficult to understand  
  • Publication process takes longer, so the most current events aren’t covered until months later  
Newspapers

Audience: general audience, possibly a specific demographic (location, community, etc.)

Good for:

  • Up-to-date information on current events  
  • Published frequently (sometimes daily)  
  • Covers local, national, and international news  
  • Serves as a record of events containing quotes from officials, witnesses, and experts  
  • May also include statistics and images  
  • Includes a variety of types of information from objective reporting to opinion columns  

Be careful / consider:

  • Written by journalists, who usually aren’t experts in the subject  
  • New information may be contradicted and require corrections after original publication  
  • Publication may have an editorial bias (conservative, liberal, etc.) 
Magazines

Audience: general audience, possibly relating to specific interests (such as hobbies, sports, and recreation)  

Good for:

  • Current information  
  • Usually short and easy to understand articles  
  • Often includes photos and illustrations  

Be careful / consider:

  • Authors may not be experts in the subject (secondhand information) 
  • May not cite sources  
  • Publication may have an editorial bias (conservative, liberal, etc.)  
Professional Magazines & Trade Journals

Audience: professionals (may include scholars) in a particular field or trade  

Good for:

  • Current information that is relevant to a particular field, profession, or trade  
  • Articles often include context and analysis relevant to a particular discipline  

Be careful / consider:

  • May not be peer reviewed  
  • Content varies in length and complexity  
  • May not cite sources  
Books

Audience: general audience and/or scholars, professionals, and researchers

Good for:

  • Overview of a topic, potentially including background and historical context  
  • May build off existing knowledge in the field and provide suggestions for further reading (cites credible sources)  

Be careful / consider:

  • May be simplified (for general audience) or complex (for scholars)  
  • Publication process takes longer, so information is dated and does not include the most current events  
  • May be biased, depending on the author and publisher  
Websites

Audience: varies

Good for:

  • Many types: news, government, company, educational, personal interest, etc.
  • Can be about any topic and any skill level  

Be careful / consider:

  • Hard to check for credibility, accuracy, or bias 
  • May not cite sources  
Reference (Encyclopedias, Dictionaries, etc.)

Audience: general audience, possibly scholarly or professional

Good for: 

  • Useful background information on a subject 
  • Generally written as entries then compiled by editors 
  • May provide direction in finding additional (and more specific) sources   

Be careful / consider:

  • Does not provide in-depth information or specific research 
  • Quality and credibility vary, depending on the authors  
Government

Audience: government officials and citizens

Good for:

  • Includes a variety of reports, websites, and data
  • Credible information 

Be careful / consider:

  • Often difficult to read or comprehend 

Downloadable Documents

Evaluating Sources

See below for full text version of "Evaluating Sources"

Evaluating Sources  

As a researcher, it is your job to assess the sources you find to determine if they are usable for college level research and how you can use them. Consider the following questions as you evaluate the sources you find.

Who?

  • Who created this source? What qualifies them to talk about this topic?

    • What other sources have they published?

  • Who are they citing in their work? Do those sources seem credible?

What?

  • What type of source is this?

    • Where was it published?

    • Does that source type have a review process?  

  • What type of information does it contain?

    • Empirical research?

    • A subjective (opinion) piece?

    • Objective topic overview? 

When?

  • When was the source published?  

  • When was it last updated?  

  • Is this information still relevant? 

Why?

  • Why was this source created? What motivated the creator or sponsor of this source? 

    • Is it trying to persuade you of something?  

    • What biases are present? 

  • Why should you use it? What does it provide to your argument?