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First Year Student Research

Find Sources

Find sourcesFrom 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. In the research process, consider how the type of information sources you choose will be able to answer the questions you have.

Types of Sources

Browse the list below for characteristics and examples of different types of information and sources.

Reference Sources

  • 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

New 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

Popular Sources

  • Include articles on diverse topics of popular interest and current events
  • Articles typically written by journalists or professional writers online or in print publications
  • Written to be easily understood by the general public
  • Examples: Newspapers and Magazine, Online
  • Try: WIRED

Scholarly Sources

  • Academic journals, peer-reviewed, scholarly, referred are all words for the same thing!
  • 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

Primary Sources

  • Arise directly from a particular event or time period
  • Information that has not yet been critiqued or analyzed by a second or third party.
  • Can be popular or academic sources
  • Examples: letters, speeches, interviews, works of art, diaries, blogs, social media posts, original scholarly research, and more!
  • Try: 

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