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First Year Student Research

Types of Sources

From morning to night, we encounter news and information everywhere: social media, word of mouth, news articles, advertising, and of course Google! In the university setting, we also engage with information in academic journals. Whatever the types, in research we call these sources, or where you learned the information. In the research process and in your assignment, consider how the type of information sources you choose will be able to answer the questions you have.

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, Wikipedia
  • Try: Gale Virtual Reference Library

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
  • Try: ProQuest US Newstream


  • 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
  • Try: WIRED

Academic Journals 

  • Academic, peer-reviewed, scholarly, referred are all words for the same thing!
  • 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
  • Try: Academic Search Ultimate


  • 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
  • Try: OneSearch

Data & Statistics

  • Include survey results, demographic information, graphs, datasets, and more.
  • Can be helpful quantitative data to measure the significance of an issue
  • Typically published in reports or cited in news and magazine articles.
  • Examples: The US Census, Fresno State enrollment data, social media analytics 
  • Try: Pew Research Center