Selecting Appropriate Sources

Potentially useful information can come from virtually anywhere: personal experience, books, articles, expert opinion, web sites, etc.

Unfortunately, it's easy to spend a lot of time locating sources that are not useful because they offer the wrong types of information. That's why defining our information needs before we start looking can save us time. We will know what to look for.

Our next step should involve thinking about the types of information various source types offer. Knowing these differences will help us figure out what kinds of sources match our information needs and which search tools to use.

Use the tabbed table to the right to view lists of primary uses for six basic source types: books, journals, magazines, newspapers, reference works, and Internet sites.

learning activity Put your cursor over each tab to view information.
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It is fairly easy to tell articles from journals, magazines, and newspapers apart when we look at them in print. However, we now access most periodical articles online, which can make telling them apart harder.

We can usually identify newspaper articles whether we read them in print or online. However, it is often more difficult to distinguish between articles from other periodical types when we read them online and when we locate them separately from their publications, which happens in most databases and other online search tools.

The next page gives specific characteristics that can help us identify three periodical types: scholarly journal, trade magazine/journal, and general interest magazine.