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EMPOWER: Starting Your Research: Information Sources

Types of Information Sources

You have access to many types of information sources through the Edgewood library.

The most common sources used by students are articles from periodicals (which include journals, newspapers, and magazines), books, encyclopedias, and web sites.  There are even more types not listed here: music, videos, masters theses, manuscripts, photographs, etc. Ask a librarian if you need help finding sources.

Journal Articles

Cover of a JournalJournal articles are written by scholars in an academic or professional field. An editorial board reviews articles to decide whether they should be published. Journals that go through this process are called peer reviewed or refereed journals. Journal articles may cover very specific topics or narrow fields of research.

Since journals are published at periodic intervals, they are grouped in the category called periodicals. They may be in print format or on the Web as electronic journals. Your library purchases subscriptions to most journals.

Use a Journal...

  • when doing scholarly research to find out what has been studied on your topic.
  • to find bibliographies that point to other relevant research.

Examples of Journals:

  • Journal of Communication
  • The Historian
  • Journal of Business Research
  • Lancet

If you are still unsure about the difference between magazines and journals, see Scholarly Journal or Popular Magazine for a web page that compares the two.

Newspaper Articles

NewspaperNewspapers provide articles each day about current events and are a good source for local information. They can be found on newsstands, bookstores, and, of course, at the Oscar Rennebohm Library.

Newspapers, like journals and magazines, are called periodicals because they are published regularly, or periodically. Most newspapers are published daily.

Use a Newspaper...

  • to find current information about international, national and local events.
  • to find editorials, commentaries, expert or popular opinions.

Examples of Newspapers:

  • Wall Street Journal
  • New York Times
  • Wisconsin State Journal

Magazine Articles

Magazine coverMagazines publish articles on topics of popular interest and current events. The articles are written by journalists and are for the general public. Advertisements usually help keep the cost reasonable for the average consumer.

Magazines, like journals and newspapers, are called periodicals because they are published at regular intervals throughout the year. Most are published bi-weekly or monthly.

Some magazines are written for practitioners or professionals of an applied field and are called trade magazines. Although trade magazines may be specialized, they do not usually include theoretical concepts or reports of original research, and therefore are not considered scholarly journals.

Use a Magazine...

  • to find information or opinions about popular culture.
  • to find up-to-date information about current events.
  • to find general articles written for people who are not necessarily specialists, theorists, or researchers in the topic area.

Examples of Magazines:

  • Ebony
  • PC World (trade magazine)
  • Popular Mechanics (trade magazine)
  • Rolling Stone
  • U.S. News and World Report

If you are still unsure about the difference between magazines and journals, see Scholarly Journal or Popular Magazine for a web page that compares the two.

Book Chapters

Set of booksBooks cover virtually any topic, fact or fiction. Books that synthesize all the information on one topic may be the most useful for your research. However, you may also use books in which only some of the chapters address your topic.

Libraries organize and store their book collections on shelves called stacks. Many books are now available electronically on the web (ebooks) and are purchased by your library.

Use a Book...

  • when looking for an extensive amount of information on a topic.
  • to put your topic in context with other important issues.
  • to find historical information.
  • to find summaries of research to support an argument.
  • to find bibliographies that point to other relevant research.

Examples of Books:

  • Barbara A. Chernow. Beyond the Internet: Successful Research Strategies, 2007.
  • Theodore Kornweibel, Jr. Railroads in the African American Experience: a Photographic Journey, 2010.
  • Daragh O'Reilly and Finola Kerrigan, editors. Marketing the Arts: a Fresh Approach, 2010.
  • Jodi Picoult My Sister's Keeper : a novel, 2005

Encyclopedia Articles

Set of encyclopedias

Encyclopedia articles contain factual articles on many subjects. Although encyclopedia articles may have been a major source for research in high school, in college you'll use sources that contain more depth. Use encyclopedias only for background information or an overview of your topic.

There are two types of encyclopedias--general and subject. General encyclopedias provide overviews on a wide variety of topics. Subject encyclopedias contain entries focusing on one field of study.

At Edgewood, encyclopedias are available in print or electronic format.

Use an Encyclopedia...
  • when looking for background information on a topic.
  • when trying to find key ideas, important dates or concepts.
Examples of Encyclopedias:
  • Encyclopedia Americana (general encyclopedia)
  • Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia (an online general encyclopedia)
  • Encyclopedia of Bioethics (subject encyclopedia)
  • Encyclopedia of Applied Psychology (an online subject encyclopedia)

Web Sites

beginning of a website address

The World Wide Web allows you to access information on the Internet through a browser. One of the main features of the Web is the ability to link quickly to other related information (hyperlink).

There are LOTS of types of user generated media on the open web: Facebook, blogs, vodcasts, wikis, and discussion boards, just to name a few. These sources may help you dream up ideas for your research projects, but they are NOT usually appropriate for college-level papers.

To learn more about how to evaluate the quality and reliability of information found on the Web, see our page of evaluating information sources.

Use the Web...
  • to find current information.
  • to link to information provided by the library online.
  • to find information from all levels of government - federal to local.
  • to find both expert and popular opinions.
Examples of Web addresses: