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How to: Begin Basic Academic Research

Three Types of Resources

❶Three Types of Resources In general, there are three types of resources or sources of information:

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Here you will find journals and other texts that go into more depth in a discipline and are therefore more appropriate for college research than those sources written for the general public. Some, though not all, of these sources are now in electronic format, and may be accessible outside of the library using a computer.

Primary sources are original, first-hand documents such as creative works, research studies, diaries and letters, or interviews you conduct. Secondary sources are comments about primary sources such as analyses of creative work or original research, or historical interpretations of diaries and letters.

You can use a combination of primary and secondary sources to answer your research question, depending on the question and the type of sources it requires. If you're writing a paper on the reasons for a certain personality disorder, you may read an account written by a person with that personality disorder, a case study by a psychiatrist, and a textbook that summarizes a number of case studies.

The first-hand account and the psychiatrist's case study are primary sources, written by people who have directly experienced or observed the situation themselves. The textbook is a secondary source, one step removed from the original experience or observation. For example, if you asked what the sea symbolized in Hemingway's story "The Old Man and the Sea," you'd need to consult the story as a primary source and critics' interpretations of the story as a secondary source.

An on-line catalog has replaced card catalogs in many libraries as a means of listing and indexing what is in the library. You use an on-line catalog the same way you use a card catalog: So don't feel intimidated if you haven't yet searched on-line; anyway, the directions are right on the screen. Most of the searches that you do for a research paper will be subject searches, unless you already know enough about the field to know some standard sources by author or title.

When using an on-line catalog or a card catalog, make sure to jot down the source's name, title, place of publication, publication date, and any other relevant bibliographic information that you will need later on if you choose to use the source in your research paper. Also remember to record the call number, which is the number you use to find the item in the library. Magazines are written for the general public, so they contain articles that do not present a subject in depth.

Journals are written by and for professionals in various fields and will provide you with in-depth, specific information. Your professors will expect you to use some journals; in fact, the more advanced your courses are, the more you should be using journal articles in your research as opposed to magazine articles.

How do you find articles to answer your research question? It's inefficient to go through volumes of magazines and journals, even if you could think of appropriate ones. Most magazine and journal articles are referenced in either an index or an abstract. An index lists magazine or journal articles by subject. Find the correct subject heading or keyword to search for articles.

Write down all the information for each article. Check the index's abbreviation key if you can't understand the abbreviations in the entry. Make sure to write down all of the entry's information so you can find the article IF your library carries the magazine or journal. If not, you can use the information to request the article through interlibrary loan. Specific indices the "correct" plural of index exist for journals in just about every field of study Business Index, Social Science Index, General Science Index, Education Index, and many more , while there's only one major index to general interest magazines The Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature.

Many libraries have many of these indices on their on-line systems; check with the reference librarian if you have a question about indices available on-line. An abstract is like an index with a brief description of the article's content added. You'll soon see that it's great to be researching in a field that has an abstract, since this short explanation can help you make an early decision about the relevance of the article to your research question or working thesis.

A bound, printed abstract takes two steps to use. The first step is the same--find the appropriate subject heading in the index portion and write down all of the information in the entry. Note that the entry will also include a number or some kind of an identifying code. Then use the number or code in the "abstracts" portion to find a description of the type of information that's in the article. Again, if an article seems appropriate, write down all of the entry information so you can find the article in your library or through interlibrary loan and so you'll have the information for your works cited or references list at the end of your paper.

The most commonly used index to newspaper articles is the New York Times Index, organized alphabetically by subject. Find the appropriate subject heading and jot down the information so you can find the article, which is usually on microfilm, unless you're dealing with a very recent issue of the Times. Your local newspaper also may publish an index, which may be useful if you are researching local history or politics.

Encyclopedias provide background information about a subject. Note that you should confine your use of encyclopedias to background information only, since their information is too general to function as an appropriate source for a college paper. Specialized encyclopedias and dictionaries provide background in specific fields e. Facts on File and Statistical Abstracts provide brief bits of statistical information that can aid your research. For example, if you're doing on a paper on airline safety since deregulation, it's a safe bet that you can find statistics on airline safety problems in one of these reference books.

Other reference books abound e. Take time, at some point, to browse your library's shelves in the reference section to see how many different types of reference books exist and to consider how you may use them. It will be time well spent. The Library of Congress provides an indexing system; most academic libraries index their books using Library of Congress subject headings. The Library of Congress publishes a Subject Heading Index listing all of the subject headings that they use.

Why bother knowing this information? The Subject Heading Index is a good tool for you as a researcher. If you're not getting exactly the right books you need through your on-line subject search, check this index to find the appropriate subject heading to use.

If you are finding too much information, check this index to see at a glance all of the various headings and sub-headings for the subject. You can get an idea of how to narrow down and focus your subject simply by scanning these various headings and sub-headings.

Just note that these subject headings relate to books only. Magazine and journal indexes and abstracts will use their own subject headings but the Library of Congress headings can at least give you an idea of the types of headings to use.

The important thing to remember here is that, by the time a book is printed, the information is at least a couple of years old.

So if you're doing research that requires very recent information, a newspaper, magazine, or journal is your best bet. If currency is not an issue and it's not, in many cases , then a book's fuller treatment of a subject is a good choice.

It's also useful to move from virtual cyberspace into actual, physical space and "real time" when you search for books. That means that you should get yourself into the library. Sometimes a look through the stacks the shelves on which the books are located will turn up additional information that's relevant to your research question or working thesis. The Internet provides access to a lot of information. The ESC Library provides access to a number of useful databases on a wide variety of topics.

The Internet provides access to many on-line catalogs so you can review the types of books available in the field and carried by that particular library. The Internet also provides access to a few full-text electronic journals which means that you can read and print the article right from the screen. The Internet can link you up with individuals who might have expertise on the topic you are researching. You can find these people by joining electronic discussion groups newsgroups or maillists.

These forums are usually categorized by topic e. By posting a question to the group or maillist, you can obtain useful information from knowledgeable people willing to share their expertise. The one big problem with the Internet is that you sometimes need to sift. You also have to be critical of what you find, since anyone can post and even change anything that's out there in cyberspace, and you won't necessarily know if someone answering your query is really an expert in the field.

But if you persevere, and even if you just play around with it, the Internet can offer some gems of information in a quick, easy way.

Don't underestimate the power of interviewing knowledgeable people as part of your research. For example, if you're researching a topic in local history, consult the town historian or a local resident who experienced what you're researching.

People who have "been there" and "done that" can add a real richness to your research. Who better than a former Olympic athlete to provide information about the emotional effects of athletic competition?

There is creativity in the research process, because you can often choose your own topic and sources, and use your ability to synthesize and analyze information to create something entirely new, whether it is a paper, lab report, or presentation.

The advent of the Internet simplified research in many ways, making it more convenient and comprehensive, but the search for appropriate sources among the vast amount of information available means you need to refine your research skills. A professor will often assign a topic, or provide you with a list of approved topics from which you can choose the one that interests you most.

That makes choosing a topic easy. However, some professors, often in more advanced courses, suggest a general subject area and allow students to narrow their focus on their own within that general subject. The most important thing to remember in this situation is that the topic you choose should be clearly related to the general subject of the assignment or the course.

If you have questions, it is always best to consult with your professor, who can provide further guidance on the assignment. You should also make sure that when you select your topic, you get approval from your professor or check to make sure that your topic will fulfill the assignment. College-level research involves sophisticated scholarly sources.

Libraries, archives, databases, and other online materials are all considered appropriate and even necessary sources of information for college-level work. Here are a few places where you can begin your hunt for data:. After you have gathered a number of potential sources to peruse, take the time to determine whether they are beneficial or not.

Unfortunately, some sources are far less helpful than others, so it important to evaluate the research and articles you have uncovered before launching your project. Once you have determined that your research materials are worth digging into and working with, you can approach the data in different ways to get the most out of your researching. Taking notes on all of your materials is essential, as the number of sources you consult in your research might be quite numerous.

Note-taking is a varied and inexact science, because there are many different methods. It is important to find the method that works best for you, so that your research is organized and useful when you are ready to write. The end product of all your research should reflect the main points of your sources and support the argument you present in your paper, lab report, PowerPoint presentation, or oral presentation. The end result should not be a simple summary of your research, but instead it should be an analytical assessment of the topic that is supported by your research.

The best way to use your research is to refer to it through citation and quotation:. Once you have compiled your research and used it to support the arguments you make in your academic assignment, the final step is to edit and proofread your work. The best students remember that all writing involves rewriting to achieve a polished final product.

Also, the whole point of any research assignment is to allow students to demonstrate their ability to compile, assess, and analyze information and come to a new conclusion. This cannot be accomplished if students rely on sources without citing them appropriately. However, plagiarism is easy to avoid if you follow the rules regarding appropriate uses of sources.

In addition to the process outlined above, it is a good idea to stop your research periodically and check to make sure you are still focused on your topic, aware of deadlines, and on schedule to complete your project or assignment. The best research is not rushed, so that you have time to evaluate what you have done, make sure that you are using your source notes effectively, and that you have understood all of your source material.

Achieving this balance can sometimes be difficult if your topic is new and challenging. Above all, remember that you are the researcher and that you are in control of the project. You can take your work in any direction, as long as you support your assertions, cite your materials appropriately, and meet the requirements of your assignment. View all FAQ videos. Primary sources are original materials on which other research is based, including: Secondary sources are those that describe or analyze primary sources, including: Tertiary sources are those used to organize and locate secondary and primary sources.

Abstracts — summarize the primary or secondary sources, Databases — are online indexes that usually include abstracts for each primary or secondary resource, and may also include a digital copy of the resource. Secondary Sources Primary Vs. Scholarly Journal Reports original research or experimentation Articles written by an expert in the field for other experts in the field Articles use specialized jargon of the discipline Articles undergo peer review process before acceptance for publication in order to assure creative content Authors of articles always cite their sources in the form of footnotes or bibliographies Examples: Trade Journal Discusses practical information in industry Contains news, product information, advertising, and trade articles Contains information on current trends in technology Articles usually written by experts in the field for other experts in the field Articles use specialized jargon of the discipline Useful to people in the trade field and to people seeking orientation to a vocation Examples: Advertising Age Independent Banker People Management General Interest Magazines Provides information in a general manner to a broad audience Articles generally written by a member of the editorial staff or a freelance writer Language of articles geared to any educated audience, no subject expertise assumed Articles are often heavily illustrated, generally with photographs No peer review process Sources are sometimes cited, but more often there are no footnotes or bibliography Examples: Newsweek Popular Science Psychology Today Popular Magazine Articles are short and written in simple language with little depth to the content of these articles The purpose is generally to entertain, not necessarily inform Information published in popular magazines is often second-or third-hand The original source of information contained in articles is obscure Articles are written by staff members or freelance writers Examples: If you have found an article and are not sure if it is scholarly or not you can find out by consulting the following books located in the Reference Room:

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A. Finding Sources. SUMMARY. Another reason why Wikipedia should not be cited in an academic research paper is that it aims to be like an encyclopedia–a source of reference information, not scholarly research or primary or secondary sources. One must delineate between general reference for general knowledge and scholarly sources for in.

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The experts at Elite Editing show you where to find credible sources for your research paper. Finding credible sources online explained. The experts at Elite Editing show you where to find credible sources for your research paper. but double-check all of the facts by using credible sources of information. Use online scholarly databases such. research published in scholarly/academic journals. Secondary sources are those that describe or analyze primary sources, including: reference materials – dictionaries, encyclopedias, textbooks, and; books and articles that interpret, review, or sythesize original research/fieldwork.

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Video: Academic Sources: Definition & Examples Find out what academic sources are and what to look for if you're required to use them for research papers and essays. Complete the lesson, and take. Dozens of useful tools for finding journal articles and scholarly and academic research papers and sources, including gateways to libraries. WebLens' most popular page, and a go-to resource for scholarly research.