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Research Help

This guide will help you at all stages of the research process, from choosing a topic to citing your sources.

Scholarly vs. Popular

What are Scholarly Sources?
  • Intended for academic research (written BY scholars FOR scholars) 

  • Cite (credible) sources 

  • Published in/as:

    • Scholarly/Academic Journals (often Peer Reviewed)

    • Theses or Dissertations

    • Books or Book Chapters 

What are Popular Sources?
  • Intended for a general audience (potentially for a specific demographic or community) 

  • Credibility varies (may not cite sources) 

  • Useful for perspectives, opinions, and very current events 

  • Published in/as:

    • Newspapers and Magazines (articles, opinions, editorials)

    • Websites or Blogs

    • Social Media

    • Infographics, Online Video, or Podcasts 

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  

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.) 

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  

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  

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  

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 

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