Source Types

This video describes different types of information sources and how they might fit into your research.

When people with advanced degrees conduct original research, they write articles about their findings and publish these articles in scholarly journals. These kinds of articles are known as scholarly articles, academic articles, refereed articles, or peer-reviewed articles. What’s “peer-reviewed” mean? When scholars submit an article to a journal to be published, the editor sends this article to other scholars in the field to review the article. These peer reviewers will critique the article and give suggestions for the original author to improve the article before it can be published. This process helps ensure the reliability of scholarly literature. This is why your professor is always telling you to cite peer-reviewed articles in your papers.

Sometimes scholars will write whole books on their research. As you can imagine, scholarly books require a lot of very in-depth research. They usually cover a narrow topic with a lot of detail. When using a scholarly book for your own research, it’s usually better to choose one or two relevant chapters, rather than reading the whole book.

What about non-scholarly books? Are they ever appropriate for research? It really depends on your topic. If you’re writing a paper about 20th century Korean literature, then fiction books like novels or collections of short stories may be appropriate. Whether a book is scholarly or not can be a grey area, especially if it’s non-fiction. It’s best to check the author’s credentials and the sources they cite in their book – if any.

There are non-scholarly periodicals, too. This category would include newspapers, magazines, and trade journals. These are sources of information that are published on a regular basis (periodically) and when evaluating these sources it can be helpful to consider the audience and purpose of the periodical. For example, a news article is written by journalists for a general audience. The purpose of a newspaper is to provide verified facts that are highly current and impactful to the everyday life of the average citizen. Neither the journalist nor the newspaper’s readers necessarily have in-depth knowledge of the topic. A scholarly article, on the other hand, is written for a narrow audience of experts. Since it takes so long for a scholarly article to go through the peer review process, the information it provides won’t be as current as the information found in a news article.

You can probably think of lots of other sources of information and any source could be right for your research. Just make sure you evaluate the authority of the source and its relevance to your topic before you cite it.