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ENG1110 English Composition & Written Composition

An Introduction to the Research Process and Basic Information Literacy Skills

Tell us ...

Which type of resource do you use most often for research?

Tell us ...
Encyclopedias: 0 votes (0%)
Books: 10 votes (22.22%)
Magazine articles: 0 votes (0%)
Scholarly journal articles: 9 votes (20%)
Web pages: 26 votes (57.78%)
Total Votes: 45

Introduction to Information Needs & Resource Types

Information is found in many different types of resources. What you NEED will tell you what type of resource to use.

  • Know what information you need THEN ...
  • Choose and use an appropriate resource type:
    • Reference Works ... Need background info or an overview?
    • Books (Monographs) ... Need a comprehensive look at a topic or focused information in context?
    • Periodicals (for articles) ... Need the most current? Need a very specific aspect of a topic? Need a scholarly journal article?
    • Primary Sources ... Need original material?
    • Statistics ... Need statistics or data? Government reports?

Go from information need to resource type

Do you need background information or an overview of your topic to help you understand it before searching for more in-depth or focused information?

USE ... Reference Works

General Reference Works
Use general reference encyclopedias, dictionaries, annuals, almanacs, etc. that cover a wide range of subject areas and topics.
Examples: Encyclopedia Britannica (shown below), Webster's Dictionary

Specialized Reference Works
Use discipline specific encyclopedias, dictionaries, annuals, almanacs, etc.
Examples: Encyclopedia of Homelessness (shown below), Dictionary of Psychological Terms, etc.


Encyclopedias provide an excellent place to start research since they include introductory and background information. General encyclopedias address all subject areas (e.g. Encyclopedia Britannica). Subject encyclopedias address a particular subject only (e.g. Psychology, Education, Religion, Humor, etc.)

Do you need a lengthy or comprehensive treatment of your topic? Focused information on a topic placed in a broader context?

USE ... Books (Monographs)

Print Books
Paper and ink books are found by searching the library catalog and then using the location and call number to find the book on the library bookshelves. See the example below.

eBooks (electronic books)
Electronic books are found by searching the library catalog and then read on the computer screen, downloaded onto an e-reader such as a Kindle or Nook, or downloaded onto a mobile device such as a smart phone or tablet. See the example below.


Books (monographs) can be in either print format or electronic format (usually called electronic books or ebooks) and typically give a lengthy, comprehensive treatment of a subject or provide focused information within a broader context.

Monograph: A scholarly piece of writing that is of essay or book length on a specific subject.

Do you need to find the latest research results or business news? Has your professor specifically told you to find scholarly journal articles or use scholarly/peer-reviewed journals?

USE ... Periodical Articles

Popular Magazines

Popular magazines are written for the general public with the purpose of informing and entertaining. Newsweek, Time, and Rolling Stone are examples of popular magazines. Because of their easy reading style, magazines may be a good starting point in understanding a topic. They can also provide a contemporary point of view.

Popular magazine articles can be found in the print copy of the magazine, at the magazine's website, and through library research databases.


Scholarly Journals (peer reivewed or refereed)

Scholarly journals typically have articles written by academic scholars in the field of study for which they write. They may report research or provide a scholarly discussion of a topic. They usually include an abstract (summary) at the beginning of the article and a Bibliography (Reference or Works Cited) at the end of the article. For most college level papers, you should rely more heavily on articles from scholarly journals.

Scholarly journal articles can be found in the print copy of the journal, at the publisher's website (this usually costs money), and through library research databases.



Newspapers provide accounts of current events and can show trends of public opinion. Older issues of newspapers provide a record of past ideas, problems, and events.

Newspaper articles can be found in the print copy of the newspaper, at the newspaper's website, and through library research databases.


Most scholarly journal articles are peer-reviewed - reviewed by academic scholars (experts) on the topic before being accepted for publication. Some scholarly journals do not have a peer review process, but have an editorial board that reviews articles to judge their quality. Both peer review and editorial board review are indicators of high quality. You will learn more about this in the "Evaluating" section of this guide.

Periodicals are particularly useful when you need the most current information.

Watch this video to learn more about the difference between scholarly journals & popular magazines:

Have you been told to include primary sources in your research?

USE ...

First Person Accounts (letters, diaries, etc.)
Original Creative Works (poems, novels, music, etc.)
Raw Data
Relics or Artifacts


Primary sources are original material that has not been altered. What constitutes a primary source varies by discipline. A scholar in the humanities may use a newspaper photograph or a poem as a primary source while a scientist might use data from an experiment or an artifact from an archaeological dig. Also, note the difference between primary sources and secondary sources.

Secondary sources comment upon, explain, or interpret primary sources. They may include scholary books, journal and magazine articles, encyclopedias, dictionaries, biographies, reviews, and textbooks.

Watch this video to learn more about this type of resource and how they differ from secondary resources:

Do you need supporting statistics?

USE ... Numerical or quantitative data


Statistics are found in many different types of publications. You might find them in a book or periodical article. You might find them in a pamphlet or on a web site produced by an organization.

Government agencies and departments are one of the largest producers and publishers of statistics. Government publications are issued by local, state, national, or international governments. Government information includes laws, regulations, statistics, consumer information, and much more. Government information is generally considered to be reliable. Many government publications are available through government websites.

Below is an example of statistics found in a book.