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Introduction to College Research Part 1

How to Evaluate Web Resources



Types of Resources

Types of Resources

Each assignment has unique requirements. Carefully review the requirements of an assignment before starting your research. Below are some terms your professors might use to describe the types of resources that are required for an assignment.

Primary Sources: Primary sources contain first-hand information or original data. Examples include a research article found in an academic journal, a diary, letters, photographs, sheet music, and public records. 

Secondary Sources: Secondary sources contain information that is describing, summarizing, analyzing, evaluating that is derived from or based on primary sources. Some examples include a book review, a critical analysis of a work, second-person account, a biography or historical study. 

Popular Sources: Popular works are written or a general audience and are generally written to entertain or inform. They are written in everyday language, and usually do not contain formal citations. Examples include People Magazine, New York Times,, and Psychology Today. 

Scholarly Sources: Scholarly sources are written by experts in their field of study for other scholars, professors, and students, and are written to present research. The language is formal and includes field-specific terms, and also includes formal citations. Examples include the Journal of Psychology, Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), and the Journal of American History.

What is a scholarly article?

Assignments often require the use of scholarly or peer-reviewed articles. Scholarly resources, such as journal articles, have distinct characteristics when compared to popular resources, such as magazine and newspaper articles. Here is a guide to identifying popular and scholarly resources:

Popular Resources Scholarly Resources
  Purpose Entertain or Inform Present Research
  Format Glossy, colorful pages with lots of advertisements Plain, black-and-white pages with graphs and tables; very few ads
  Language Written in every-day language Formal, field specific
  Audience General Public Professionals in the field, Faculty, and Students
  Citations Full citations generally not included Full citations required
  Examples People Magazine, Journal of Psychology, JAMA
Peer-reviewed resources have been reviewed by other professionals in the field before being published. Not all scholarly resources are peer-reviewed. Many databases allow users to limit the results to include only peer-reviewed materials. If you are not sure if a source is peer-reviewed, contact a librarian for help.