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Library Research Tutorial

Understanding Information Sources

Understanding information sources

It is important to understand how scholars engage in scholarly conversations, over time and across subject disciplines. 

People have contributed new thoughts, ideas, discoveries and interpretations that build knowledge.

Why are there so many different types of sources?

Every topic has multiple perspectives because everything from opinion to data, as well as scholarly and non-academic sources, contribute to the body of knowledge on a subject to include the voices of experts, scholars and you. 

How you use, create and share information is a task that requires skill and responsibility as you make your contributions to the scholarly conversations on your topic.


What are some of the different types of information sources?

 

Newspapers

A reporting and recording of cultural and political happenings that keeps the general public informed of daily events, sports, and current news. Opinions and public commentaries can also be included.

Popular magazines

A glossy compilation of informative, entertaining stories with unique themes intended for a specific interests—or lifestyles—from celebrities to gardening to gaming.

Professional journals

A collection of work-related articles that keep professionals up-to-date on the latest trends, breakthroughs and controversies in their field.

Scholarly journal articles

An scholarly journal is a periodical publication in which research articles relating to a particular academic discipline are published after being critically reviewed by experts in the subject.

Encyclopedias

A book or set of books giving information on many subjects or on many aspects of one subject. Some are intended as an entry point into research for a general audience, some provide detailed information. Most list relevant books and articles for further information on a topic.

Academic books

A book in which the information presented is supported by clearly identified sources. Sometimes each chapter has a different author, and the editor pulls them all together into a whole. Often these types of books have a narrow and specific focus.

Non-academic books

Books may count as academic sources, but many do not.  Textbooks, encyclopedias, and books published for commercial audiences often do not count as academic.

Are books peer reviewed?

"Peer review" is the editorial process that scholarly articles go through before they are published in a journal. Since not all books go through the same editorial process before publication, most aren't peer reviewed. They can be still be good scholarly sources though.

Consider these questions when you're deciding if a book is academic or not:

  • Who is the author? Google them. The author should be an expert in the topic of the book with graduate degrees and preferably a current position at a research institution like an university. 
  • Where does the information come from? There should be lots of references and other evidence in the book to support the arguments or findings.
  • Who is the book written for? The book should not be written for laymen.
  • Who published it? Academic book publishers are often university presses, like Oxford University Press, but you will encounter other academic publishers, like Routledge, Palgrave or the American Psychological Association. 

 

If you're still not sure what type of information source is, the best thing to do would be to ask your instructor or a librarian for confirmation.