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Select 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.

Select the Best Information Source (Accessible View)

Source Best For Intended Audience Watch For/Consider
Newspapers Newspapers are best for:
  • Daily local, national, and international news, events, and editorial coverage
  • Statistics and photojournalism
  • Record of events and quotes from experts, officials, and witnesses
Newspapers are intended for a general audience When using newspapers, you should watch for and consider that:
  • Authors usually not experts
  • If a story is breaking, corrections to initial report likely
  • Editorial bias of a publication

Popular Magazines

Popular magazines are best for:
  • Current information
  • Short, easy to understand articles (including analysis, interviews, opinions, etc.)
  • Photographs and illustrations
Popular magazines are intended for a general audience, or those with a specific, recreational interest (e.g. sports, fashion, science, etc.) When using popular magazines, you should watch for and consider that:
  • Authors usually not experts
  • Sources not always cited
  • Editorial bias of a publication

Professional/Trade
Magazines

Professional/Trade Magazines are best for:
  • Current information
  • Specialized articles related to a particular discipline or profession (including context and analysis)
Professional/Trade magazines are intended for professional organizations or professionals/scholars with similar interests When using professional/trade magazines, you should watch for and consider that:
  • 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

Scholarly/Academic Journals are best for:
  • Recent research on a topic
  • Focused, peer-reviewed articles written by experts
  • Data, statistics, charts, and graphs
  • Bibliographies of other sources
Scholarly/Academic Journals are intended for scholars, researchers, professionals, and university students in particular field When using Scholarly/Academic Journals, you should watch for and consider that:
  • Terminology and/or data may be difficult for novices to understand

Books

Books are best for:
  • Comprehensive overview of topic
  • Background and historical context
  • Bibliographies of other sources
Books are intended for a variety of audiences from a general audience through scholars When using books, you should watch for and consider that:
  • Dated information
  • Bias (dependent on author, publisher, etc.)

Websites

Websites are best for:
  • News
  • Government information
  • Company information
  • Alternate points of view
Websites are intended for a general audience When using websites, you should watch for and consider that:
  • Credibility and accuracy cannot always be assured
  • Bias (dependent on author, publisher, etc.)
  • Sources not always cited