First consider the purpose of your sources.
What do you hope to accomplish by using sources? Some common reasons you might use sources in your own work include:
Adapted from Yale College Writing Center's "Using Sources" webpage
When considering sources for research assignments...
you'll want to see if certain types of sources are required or recommended by your instructor. Some professors require you to use only scholarly peer-reviewed journals, primary sources, newspapers, or books from the library, while others might leave things more open-ended.
Consider the types of evidence needed to answer your research question or make your argument.
|If you need:||Try using:|
|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, books, encyclopedias (for older and well-known events)|
|Eye-witness accounts||Newspapers, primary source books, web-based collection of primary sources|
|A general overview of a topic||Books or encyclopedias|
|Information about a very recent topic||Websites, newspapers, and magazines|
|Local information||Newspapers, websites, and books|
|Information from professionals working in the field||Professional/trade journals
Common Terms for Source Types
Scholarly article: written by an expert in the field and reviewed by peers in the field, include references and have an academic style.
Note: In many databases, you can limit your search to scholarly, peer-reviewed or refereed journals. However, this option is not perfect, as it may also remove some peer-reviewed content as well.
Professional/trade article: published in trade or professional journals and written by experts in the field or by staff writers. These are mainly intended for professionals in a given field but are generally easier to read than most scholarly articles. While not considered 'scholarly,' they may still have useful information.
Examples: School Library Journal, Harvard Business Review, Engineering and Mining Journal, and American Biology Teacher.
Popular journals: written for a general audience
Examples: The New Yorker, People, and Rolling Stone
Primary source: created during the period being studied and provide first-hand evidence about an object, person, or event.
Examples: newspaper articles, government documents, letters, diaries, autobiographies, speeches, oral histories, museum artifacts, and photographs
Secondary source: created some time after an event has happened and interpret or analyze information from primary sources.
Examples: a book about World War II based on records from the time, a journal article about Chinese immigrants to Portland (Most books and articles are secondary sources.)
Sherrill Library | Lesley University, Brattle Campus | 89 Brattle Street - Cambridge, MA 02138 | 617-349-8850
John & Carol Moriarty Library | Lesley University, Porter Campus | 1801 Massachusetts Avenue - Cambridge, MA 02140 | 617-349-8070