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Research Tips- How Do I...?: Selecting Sources

- The purpose of this module is to help you understand basic tools to expand your college-level research skills. Each "How Do I" section is designed to give you practical information and ways of thinking about information that will allow you to:

There are so many types of sources, how do you choose which one to use?

Scholarly Sources ( your professors may use different words for this type of source )

  •  Written by experts (scholars, professors, researchers) in their given field, scholarly sources are highly specialized and often include a historiography, methodology, and theory and usually have been peer-reviewed.
    • A Peer-Review means that it has been reviewed by other experts within the field.
  • Scholarly Sources can come from books, journal articles, and some sources online sources.
    • Not all sources are in paper form - many journals are published online or through online databases. 

Trade / Professional Publications

  • Written by professionals in their field or journalists for publishers.
  • These focus on industry trends, products, techniques, and discipline-specific news.

Popular Magazines

  • Written by journalists or freelance writers.
  • Focus on common interest issues for the general public.
  • Not normally used for research purposes, but can be used to basic information gathering or a jumping off point.


  • Written by general public journalists
  • There are many types of reports within a newspaper from fluff, investigative, or editorials.
  • Read through the article to understand what type of write up it is.

Primary Sources

  • An "original" source that comes from a first-hand account of an event or topic.  
    • They are direct evidence of a time or event -or- written accounts from people that were there at the time.
  • These types of sources have not been modified by interpretations and offer original thought on the topic.
  • A few examples of Primary Sources are: diaries, letters, interviews, oral histories, photographs, newspaper articles, government documents, original research, artwork, etc.

Secondary Sources

  • Not a first-hand experience.
    • These are closely related to a primary source and are normally an interpretation of a primary source.
  • Examples of Secondary Sources include: scholarly or popular books, journal articles, textbooks, dissertations, etc.
    • They normally have primary sources cited within their writing. 

Research 101: Format Matters

How to Research