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Source types

Before you can determine where the information for your assignment is, you must first determine what kind of information you need. 

Source Purpose

Type of  Information

Books, encyclopedias, dictionaries Provides broad overview of a topic, and puts current events in a wider context Background or historical Library catalog
Newspaper and magazine articles, government documents, websites Explanation of recent events, sometimes including news reports or statistics Current information Databases
Scholarly journals Provides research studies and in-depth analysis of issues, questions, or controversies surrounding your topic Scholarly information Databases


Websites are a separate source from those listed above and can be accessed on the Internet. Websites must be evaluated for accuracy and currency. See our page on evaluating websites.


When gathering sources, I usually recommend a few strategies for students:

1. Set aside a chunk of time to go to the library to find sources.

     Don't spend this time reading the sources; spend this time collecting as many sources as you can that may be relevant to your reseach topic, i.e. that answer your research questions.

2.  Collect twice as many sources that are minimally required.  For example, if the assignment requires a minimum of four sources, collect 8 while you are at the library.

     I suggest this because when you sit down and read your sources, you may have to eliminate several that are not relevant to your topic.  If you collect twice as many, hopefully at least half will be relevant to your topic.

3.  Create source cards right away.

     Stay organized!  As soon as you determine a source is relevant to your research and you will be citing it, create a source card.  Aside from your works cited, you can use source cards to organize your thoughts before writing an outline.

4.  Aim for a variety of sources.

     Good research uses a variety of sources.  Now, more than ever, students have wide access to different kinds of sources: articles (newspaper, magazine, journals) are easily accessible through database subscriptions; books can be checked out from the library (both public and school); websites are plentiful but should be reliable (try ipl.org as a search engine instead of google); primary sources are also accessible through databases.  Don't use only one type of source (all books or all websites); try to compile a works cited that varies the source type.