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Visiting Students Research Guide: Evaluating Resources

Identify Different Source Types

There are many different information sources out there but not all materials will be appropriate or useful for your assignment. To locate the best sources for your research project:
  • Make sure you understand the requirements of your assignment. Some may require or exclude specific types of sources, while others may call for a mix.  Ask your instructor if you are not sure.
  • Review the information in the other two tabs of this box: Different Source Types and Analyze Your Information Needs.
There are many different types of information sources. This chart briefly describes a few of the more common source types.

To analyze your information needs, here are some questions to help you determine aspects of your topic that you might wish to explore and types of sources that may be appropriate.

Treatment of Topic / Perspective?
  • Do you need overviews or broad coverage of your topic? Do you need a description of an event? If so, explore popular sources, such as magazines or newspapers.
  • Do you need facts? Background information? Statistics? If so, you may want to try reference tools, statistical sources, or credible websites.
  • Do you need current news or information about trends within a specific industry or type of business and/or information from practitioners in a specific field? If so, try trade journals.
  • If you need more in-depth treatment of a topic that may include research studies, consult scholarly sources, such as scholarly journals or books.
  • Is timeliness an issue? Do you need current information? If so, look for recent publication dates and newer editions.
  • Do you need a historical perspective?
Subject Focus?
  • Do you need a specific subject area or discipline such as business, health sciences, or humanities? Or perhaps a mix?
    For example, if you are researching health insurance coverage for alternative therapies, such as acupuncture and massage, would you look for information published in the field of business or for information in the health sciences or both?

Fact Check Your Source!

One of the most popular fact-checking Web sites


Checks political facts
Web site of The St. Petersburg Times

Understanding Search Results

Rhetorical Analysis of a Website

is it scholarly or popular?

Is this article scholarly? There are two articles side by side. One is from the scholarly journal, Social Influence. It is original research and has author credentials, an abstract, uses formal specialized language, is written for scholars and experts, and includes extensive references. The other articles is from the popular magazine New Scientist. It is an overview of multiple studies. It includes eye-catching graphics, less formal language, and is written for a general audience.