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Library Research Guides

ENGWR 301 - Professor O'Brien (Spring 2020): Types of Sources

What Should I Do on This Page?

Read the information in "Types of Sources" to learn a bit more about what makes each of the articles listed there unique.

Then read "Which Source Should I Use?" as this information will help you determine when and why you might chose to use one source instead of another. 

Once you've familiarized yourself with what makes a newspaper article different from a journal or magazine article, read about the differences between scholarly and popular sources, and watch the Scholarly and Popular Sources video. 

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Types of Sources

Newspaper Articles:

  • are written by journalists
  • contain current events
  • are brief (usually a few paragraphs and up to a page)
  • are written for the general public
  • do not contain any references or footnotes
  • are usually reviewed by newspaper editors (many online newspapers are not!)
Newspaper icon from OneSearch

Magazine Articles:

  • are written by journalists
  • contain current events and general interest articles
  • are brief (usually 3-5 pages)
  • are written for the general public
  • generally do not contain any references or footnotes
  • are reviewed by magazine employees before they are published
Periodical icon from OneSearch

Journal Articles:

  • are written by subject experts in the field
  • report the results of a recent study or provide in-depth academic analysis of a topic
  • are written for experts and scholars in the field
  • tend to be long and in-depth (usually 10 - 30 pages)
  • include references or footnotes
  • are reviewed by peers before they are published
Academic Journal icon from OneSearch

Scholarly vs Popular Sources

Most of your college writing and research assignments will require you to use academic or scholarly sources instead of popular sources you may be used to. 

Academic Sources:

  • Are written by an expert on the subject
  • Are written for scholars and researchers
  • Use language specific to the field
  • Include a list of references 
  • Contain verifiable facts

Popular Sources:

  • Are often written by a journalist or writer, not an expert
  • Are written for a general audience
  • Use everyday language
  • May not include references 
  • May rely more on opinions vs. facts

Which Source Should I Use?


Advantages Scholarly books contain authoritative information and this can include comprehensive accounts of research or scholarship, historical data, overviews, experts' views on themes/topics.
When to Use Use a book when you require background information and related research on a topic, when you want to add depth to a research topic or put your topic in context with other important issues.
Disadvantages Because it can take years, in some instances, to write and publish books, they are not always the best sources for current topic.

Journals and/or Journal Articles

Advantages The articles found in many scholarly journals go through a "peer review" process. In other words, the articles are checked by academics and other experts. The information is therefore reliable. As well as containing scholarly information, journal articles can include reports and/or reviews of current research and topic-specific information.
When to Use

Use scholarly journals when you need original research on a topic; articles and essays written by scholars or subject experts; factual documented information to reinforce a position; or references lists that point you to other relevant research. Scholarly journals take less time to publish than books, but the peer-review process can be lengthy.

Disadvantages Scholarly journals include information of academic interest, so they are not the best sources for general interest topics. Because the peer-review process can be time-consuming, they may not include up-to-the minute news or current event information.


Advantages Websites provide up-to-the minute news and information about current events, trends, and controversial topics. They may also contain government publications such as reports, statistics, legislation and service information; interviews, newspaper articles; research reports; conference/workshop/symposium papers; maps and other types of resources.
When to Use

Talk to your instructor and ask which type (if any) of internet sources are permitted and might be most productive for your assignment.

Disadvantages Because anyone can publish anything on the web, website information may be inaccurate or biased, and sometimes outdated. Only a very limited amount of scholarly information is available on the open web.


Used with permission from: CQ University Library  

Scholarly and Popular Sources Video