Types of Resources

When you have a research assignment, figure out what types of article sources are required by your instructor. Some professors require you to use only scholarly peer-reviewed journals, primary sources, or newspapers; others might be more flexible in the types of sources used. Here are some source terms you should be familiar with:

Scholarly article: Written by a scholar or an expert in the field and reviewed by peers who are experts in the same area. In many databases, you can limit your search to scholarly, peer-reviewed or refereed journals. You can learn how to identify and find them in our Finding Peer Reviewed Articles section.

Professional/trade article: Written by an expert, a professional in the field, or by staff writers and reviewed by an editor for style and content. The articles often do not contain reference lists. Examples include School Library Journal, Harvard Business Review, Engineering and Mining Journal, and American Biology Teacher.

Popular journals: Written for a general audience rather than for professionals or scholars. Examples include The New YorkerPeople, and Rolling Stone.

Primary source: An item that was created during the period studied that documents in some way what is being studied. Examples include newspaper accounts, government documents, letters, diaries, autobiographies, speeches, oral histories, museum artifacts, and photographs.

Secondary source: A source that is one step removed from an event and analyzes primary sources. Examples include a book about World War II that is based on records from the time, or a journal article about Chinese immigrants to Portland. Most books and articles are secondary sources.

What types of evidence will you need to answer your research question or make your case? This chart makes suggestions for specific types of resources for your research:

If you needSearch
 Expert evidence Scholarly articles, books, and statistical data
 Public or individual opinion on an issue Newspapers, magazines, and websites
 Basic facts about an event Newspapers and books
 Eye-witness accounts Newspapers, primary source books,and web-based collections of primary sources  
 General overview of a topic Books or encyclopedias
 Information about a current topic Websites, newspapers, and magazines
 Local information Newspapers, websites, and books
 Information from professionals working in the field   Professional, trade journals