Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Beeghly Library Research Guide

Types of Sources

Reference Sources

Overview

Reference sources, such as dictionaries and encyclopedias, cover definitions of subject-specific vocabulary, provide general overviews of a topic, and answer quick facts. They may also suggest sources for further reading.

Reference material can be designed for general audiences or for specialists on a subject.

Good for

  • background information
  • definitions
  • quick facts
  • discovering source lists, especially in reference sources for scholars

Examples

APA Dictionary of Psychology, Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern World, CIA World Factbook, Grove Music Online, and Wikipedia

 

Books

Overview

Books provide in-depth coverage of a topic and, since they are longer, are able to provide a big-picture view. They may be targeted at general audiences or experts. Since the book publication process takes time, information is not the most up to date, especially for fast-changing fields, like the sciences.

Good for

  • broad overview of a topic and the research on it
  • new research in some subjects
  • historical information

Examples

Witchcraft in Early North AmericaExploring Sport & Exercise PsychologyWar, Politics, and Superheroes; and The Biology of Reefs and Reef Organisms

Scholarly Journals

Overview

Scholarly journal articles are written by experts to further the research of their academic field. They consist primarily of new research, though they can include literature reviews, editorials, some news, and reviews of books and products that scholars might use. Since the target audience for scholarly articles is academics (including undergraduates, in many cases), they are often narrow in focus and presume the reader is already familiar with the topic. Most scholarly journals practice peer review, where an article is not published until it has been approved by multiple experts on that topic.

Good for

  • finding new research
  • in-depth, specialist information
  • detailed overviews of the research on a topic; literature review

Examples

Sports Medicine, The Journal of Modern History, Annual Review of Psychology, Chemical Reviews, Journal of Popular CultureStudies in Victorian Literature

Magazines

Overview

Magazines are usually a mix of short news, investigative news articles, longer articles that provide analysis or context, and/or opinion pieces. Some magazines are very broad in coverage, while others focus on specific topics or interests. Magazines are not peer reviewed or considered scholarly. Many blogs replicate the mix of content that characterizes magazines.

Good for

  • in-depth analysis of current events 
  • detailed investigative reports
  • overviews targeted at non-specialists
  • opinion

Examples

Time, Ms. Magazine, New Scientist, Popular Psychology, Mental FlossColorlines, and Entertainment Weekly

News Sources

Overview

News sources cover current events. They tend to be more focused on the details rather than the big picture, though they will provide some overview information. Some news sources feature detailed investigative reporting. They can be delivered in a wide variety of formats, such as in print, online, television, and radio programs.

Good for 

  • current events 
  • some limited background
  • opinion
  • local information

Examples

The Wall Street Journal, Frontline, BuzzfeedThe Advertiser-TribuneThe New York TimesChristian Science Monitor, and NPR

Professional/Trade Journals

Overview

Professional, or trade, journals are similar to news sources or magazines, but are focused on a specific industry, business, or profession. Unlike scholarly journals, they are targeted to practitioners rather than researchers and are usually not peer reviewed. For example, a professional education journal would be aimed towards teachers and school administrators, rather than education researchers. 

Good for

  • news relevant to a career or industry
  • overviews of how new research in a field can be put to use
  • best practices and instructional information
  • opinion

Examples

Counseling Today, Education Week, Advertising Age, Coach and Athletic Director, and The Chronicle of Higher Education