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Selecting the Best Information Source

Selecting the Best Information Source

See the below table to determine which sources are best for finding the type of information you need for your research project.

To learn more about when these types of sources are published on an event or topic, see the Information Cycle.

Source

Best For 

Intended Audience 

Watch For/Consider

Newspapers


  • Daily local, national, and international news, events, and editorial coverage
  • Statistics and photojournalism
  • Record of events and quotes from experts, officials, and witnesses
  • General audience
  • Authors usually not experts
  • If a story is breaking, corrections to initial report likely
  • Editorial bias of a publication

Popular Magazines

  • Current information 
  • Short, easy to understand articles (including analysis, interviews, opinions, etc.)
  • Photographs and illustrations
  • General audience, or those with a specific, recreational interest (e.g. sports, fashion, science, etc.) 
  • Authors usually not experts
  • Sources not always cited
  • Editorial bias of a publication

Professional/Trade
Magazines

  • Current information 
  • Specialized articles related to a particular discipline or profession (including context and analysis)
  • Professional organizations or professionals/scholars with similar interests
  • Articles vary between short and easy to lengthy and highly specific
  • Sources not always cited
  • Has characteristics in common with both popular magazines and scholarly journals

Scholarly/Academic
Journals

  • Recent research on a topic 
  • Focused, peer-reviewed articles written by experts
  • Data, statistics, charts, and graphs
  • Bibliographies of other sources
  • Scholars, researchers, professionals, and university students in particular field 
  • Terminology and/or data may be difficult for novices to understand

Books

  • Comprehensive overview of topic
  • Background and historical context
  • Bibliographies of other sources
  • Varies (general audience through scholars) 
  • Dated information
  • Bias (dependent on author, publisher, etc.)

Websites

  • News
  • Government information 
  • Company information
  • Alternate points of view
  • General audience
  • Credibility and accuracy cannot always be assured 
  • Bias (dependent on author, publisher, etc.)
  • Sources not always cited

Questions?