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.
Determine 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. Credo Reference has a brief video explaining why you want to use many different sources and different kinds of sources when doing research (if you are off campus, you will need to log in to view the video).
Consider the types of evidence needed to answer your research question or to make your argument.
Below are helpful general guidelines, but remember that the types of sources you use will depend on the nature of your specific project.
|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|
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.
Examples: Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Journal of Teaching and Learning)
Note: In many databases, you can limit your search to scholarly, peer-reviewed or refereed journals. However, this option is not perfect: it may include editorial pieces that are not peer reviewed, and it may remove some peer-reviewed content that is still peer-reviewed. It usually also removes scholarly books, which often aren't peer reviewed but are scholarly.
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.
written for a general audience but the authors spend more time researching and thus produce more in-depth articles than you will find in a popular journal. These are generally easier to read than scholarly articles and the text will include clues of where you can go to find more information (mentioning a researcher or a study you could then look up).
Sometimes you'll find both popular articles and examples of long-form journalism in the same publication. For example, Rolling Stone typically has one longer more heavily-researched article in each issue.
Examples: The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine
written for a general audience.
Examples: Time, People, Sports Illustrated
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.
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.)