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Library Research: An Introduction

An introduction to the research process and the library's resources.

Introduction & Learning Objectives

Information can come from virtually anywhere — social media, blogs, personal experiences, books, journal and magazine articles, expert opinions, newspapers, and websites — and the type of information you need will change depending on the question you are trying to answer. Different assignments require information from a variety of sources; therefore, you need to understand where to go to find certain types of information.

After reviewing the material in this section, students will be able to:

  • Differentiate different types of information sources
  • Select a type of source needed for a specific information need based on appropriateness
  • Explain the difference between scholarly and popular articles

The Information Timeline

What is an academic journal?

Types of Information Sources

Reference Books

  • Include facts, figures, addresses, statistics, definitions, dates, etc.
  • Useful for finding factual or statistical information or for a brief overview of a particular topic.
  • Examples: dictionaries, encyclopedias, directories

Newspapers (News sources)

  • Provides very current information about events, people, or places at the time they are published
  • Useful for information on current events or to track the development of a story as it unfolds
  • Examples: The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CNN


  • Include articles on diverse topics of popular interest and current events
  • Articles typically written by journalists or professional writers
  • Geared toward the general public
  • Examples: Time, Newsweek, National Geographic

Academic Journals (Peer-reviewed or scholarly journals)

  • Include articles written by and for specialists/experts in a particular field
  • Articles must go through a peer review process before they're accepted for publication
  • Articles tend to have a narrower focus and more analysis of the topic than those in other types of publications
  • Include cited references or footnotes at the end of research articles
  • Examples: Journal of Communication, The Historian, Journal of the American Medical Association


  • Cover virtually any topic, fact or fiction 
  • Useful for the complete background on an issue or an in-depth analysis of a theory or person
  • Can take years to publish, so may not always include the most current information
  • Examples: The Politics of Gun Control, To Kill a Mockingbird, Hemingway and Faulkner in their Time