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.
Westminster College Logo

Library DIY: Starting your Research

How do you decide which types of sources to use?

First off, read the assignment carefully to look for instructions or clues. Keep in mind that even for the same professor, in the same class, different assignments will require different types of information.

Once you understand the assignment and have a working topic idea, consider what types of sources are out there that you might want to use. 

Types of Sources
Academic Popular Government or Industry  Other
  • Peer-Reviewed Articles
  • Academic Books
  • Professional Journals
  • Newspaper Articles
  • Magazine Articles
  • Popular/Non-academic Books
  • Documentaries
  • Government Documents/Reports
  • Press Releases
  • Earnings Reports
  • Trade Journals
  • Laws/Legal Cases
  • Organization (official) websites
  • Handbook/manuals
  • Primary sources (diary, news, advertisements, etc)
  • Podcasts
  • Social media posts
  • YouTube Videos
  • Interviews, 
  • Creative works (poetry, fiction, music, art),
  • Movies/Videos

 

Sometimes you’ll be able to narrow down what kinds of sources you should use based on the assignment instructions:

 

Example assignment: "For this presentation on a court case, you should base your research on academic research. This means at least 5 peer-reviewed sources. You can supplement your understanding with quality information available on the open web"

Types of sources useful for this type of assignment
Academic Popular Government or Industry  Other
  • Peer-Reviewed Articles
  • Academic Books
  • Professional Journals
  • Newspaper Articles
  • Magazine Articles
  • Popular/Non-academic Books
  • Documentaries
  • Government Documents/Reports
  • Press Releases
  • Earnings Reports
  • Trade Journals
  • Laws/Legal Cases
  • Organization (official) websites
  • Handbook/manuals
  • Primary sources (diary, news, advertisements, etc)
  • Podcasts
  • Social media posts
  • YouTube Videos
  • Interviews, 
  • Creative works (poetry, fiction, music, art),
  • Movies/Videos

 

Other times, you’ll have to think about what sources work best for your topic or purpose:

 

Example assignment: "Analyze the history of a social movement in popular culture. Think critically about how the movement has been portrayed and discussed in the media and compare popular interpretations to scholarly investigations."

Types of sources useful for this type of assignment
Academic Popular Government or Industry  Other
  • Peer-Reviewed Articles
  • Academic Books
  • Professional Journals
  • Newspaper Articles
  • Magazine Articles
  • Popular/Non-academic Books
  • Documentaries
  • Government Documents/Reports
  • Press Releases
  • Earnings Reports
  • Trade Journals
  • Laws/Legal Cases
  • Organization (official) websites
  • Handbook/manuals
  • Primary sources (diary, news, advertisements, etc)
  • Podcasts
  • Social media posts
  • YouTube Videos
  • Interviews, 
  • Creative works (poetry, fiction, music, art),
  • Movies/Videos

How do you evaluate a particular source?

Remember the CRAAP test from your first-year Inquiry class?

C - Currency: How recent was a source created/researched?

R - Relevance: Does the information in the source meet your needs? Is it the right type of source for your assignment?

A - Authority: What are the author’s credentials and expertise related to the topic?

A - Accuracy:

  • How does the source use data or craft arguments?
  • How do they back up their claims?
  • Are there factual inaccuracies?

P - Purpose: What is the intent of the author or sponsoring organization?