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ENGL 102 - Library Skills Objectives - Maple Woods


Students will select the appropriate search tool and resource type to meet their information need.

Objective Video

Source Types and Characteristics

Tend to be broader in focus, less current because of the time it takes to write and publish. Have usually gone past an editor and publisher.

  • Scholarly: Written by academics for an academic audience. Often narrower in scope. Likely to have index and source list.
  • Popular: Written for a general audience, easier to read.
    • Fiction
    • Non-fiction

You can find books using the library catalog.

Very broad. Useful for general background on a topic.

  • Encyclopedias: Short informative articles, sometimes with sources. May be general or subject-specific.
  • Dictionaries: Definitions.
  • Directories: Provide contact information for people, organizations, etc. Ex: phone book.

Reference books can be found in our library catalog.

Reference databases include:

  • Art Online
  • Ferguson's Career Guidance
  • Funk & Wagnall's New World Encyclopedia
  • Latino American Experience
  • Facts on File History Online series
  • Music Online
  • Access Science

More current and focused than books. Named because they come out ‘periodically’ (daily, weekly, etc.) Have usually gone past an editor and publisher.

  • Newspapers: Most current periodicals, usually released daily. Many have a political slant you should be aware of. Written by journalists.
    • National: Cover big stories, may not get local details correct.
    • Local: Best for local stories because of proximity to the sources.
    • Tabloid: Often misinformation and shock news, unreliable.
  • Magazines: Often monthly, more subject-focused than newspapers. Written by journalists or freelancers submitting stories.
    • Trade: Focused on a specific career with practical information, job ads, etc.
    • Popular: Entertainment-focused. May specialize in a certain subject like sports, celebrities, or cooking.
  • Scholarly journals: Least current periodical. (Scholarly publishing takes months.) Contains academic research, commentary, reviews, etc.
    • Peer-reviewed: Articles that have been reviewed and approved by other experts in the field before publication.

You can find articles in many of our library databases.

  • Databases with newspaper articles: Access World News, Newspaper Source
  • Databases with magazines: MAS Ultra, Masterfile Premier, Consumer Health Complete
  • Databases with scholarly articles: JSTOR, ERIC, Nursing and Allied Health, Proquest Psychology, and others
  • Databases with all article types: Academic Search Elite, Proquest Research Library, Health Reference Center, and others
  • Radio: Similar to newspapers, radio can be excellent journalism or biased misinformation. Consider whether a radio program is news, commentary, entertainment, etc.
      • Local
      • National
  • Podcasts: Growing in popularity with a range of genres (news, interviews, trade, fiction, etc.)

Can be very recent, although there are a lot of sites out there last updated in 2000. May or may not be mediated by publishers or editors. Websites are more of a medium than a genre, because there’s a lot of variety. A few types of web sources include:

  • Organizations
    • Government sites: Often gather statistical information and trends data. Consider which government department might be collecting information relevant to your topic.
    • Higher education institutions (.edu domains). May contain institutional research and publications or faculty/student creations.
    • Companies: Provide product and service information, but obviously have an agenda (to sell you something.)
    • Thinktanks: Data and arguments on major issues. Tend to have a political slant.
    • Nonprofits and advocacy organizations: Similar to thinktanks. May have annual reports or other summaries.
  • Social media: A major way people find and share information in the modern age. Often takes information from elsewhere without making the original source clear. May be the first and most current coverage of breaking news. Usually not mediated by editors, publishers, or fact-checkers.
    • Networking: Sites dedicated to people meeting and interacting. Most information will be shared from elsewhere – click links and find the original source. Also gives insight into people’s everyday experiences. (Ex: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn)
    • Content: Material generated for a platform. Quality can vary; look into the channel or creator. Ex: Youtube, Vimeo.
    • Specialized: Can be sources of niche information relevant to specific communities. However, may be harder to verify, and sites may have good or bad reputations. (Ex: Reddit, forums)
    • Blogs: Can provide personal experience and opinion.
  • Survey data: Consider the sample and methodology when drawing conclusions. One popular collector of survey data is the Pew Research survey.
  • Experiments: Reported on in scholarly articles. Pay close attention to their findings and methods – news agencies reporting on the results of experiments often overblow or misinterpret them.
  • Statistics. When looking for statistics, consider who might be collecting that information. Often, there may be a governmental agency or other organization that tracks those numbers.

Where most people go first when looking for information. Personal knowledge can be valuable, as long as you know what people are qualified to talk about.

  • Friends and family
  • Yourself
  • Trusted experts
  • Community groups

Choosing a Source Type

Take a moment to ask yourself, what do I want from my source? This table offers some examples of questions to ask, and shows how someone might answer those questions for the following research needs.

Example 1: I've found three apartments in my neighborhood. Now I'm trying to decide which one to rent.

Example 2: My psychology instructor asked me to find a empirical scholarly article to write a review of so I can practice understanding scholarly writing.

Question Example 1: Apartment rental Example 2: Article review
Do I need one or multiple sources? multiple one
Do I need a specific format? (Ex: book, statistics, etc.) No. yes - scholarly research article
What kind of perspective do I want? (Ex: academic, mainstream media, personal) I'd like a personal perspective from people who've rented there or lived in the area. academic
Does currency matter? How current do I need this information to be? Yes - reviews for the apartments from 10 years ago won't help me now. Same thing for cost estimates. Normally I'd want the most recent psychology research, but for this assignment date may not matter.
Who has authority on this topic? The apartment landlords, people who've rented there, residents of the neighborhood If I'm looking for a scholarly psychology article, the author should be someone with a degree in the field.
What kind of coverage do I need? (Ex: In-depth, just the basics) I'd like a deep dive - the more detail the better. Needs to be empirical, so narrowly focused
Is bias likely to be a problem? How might I avoid it? The apartment website will probably present a rosy picture - I won't want to rely on their word alone. Since I'm looking for any article just to review it, I'm not as worried about this.
Given all this, some sources that might help me are: Recent online reviews from former renters. The apartment websites. Conversations with former/current residents - I might find them on social media. One scholarly article written by someone with a psychology degree. I'll try searching in an academic database.