Types of Sources
We live in an age overflowing with sources of information. With so many information sources at our fingertips, knowing where to start, sorting through it all and finding what we want can be overwhelming! This handout provides answers to the following research-related questions: Where do I begin? Where should I look for information? What types of sources are available?
Contributors:Dana Lynn Driscoll, Karl Stolley
Last Edited: 2018-02-09 01:19:36
The amount of information available to us can be overwhelming and confusing. This section provides a list of common types of sources and what information you can discover from each.
Traditional print sources
Books and Textbooks: Books present a multitude of topics. Because of the time it takes to publish a book, books usually contain more dated information than will be found in journals and newspapers.
Newspapers: Newspapers contain very up-to-date information by covering the latest events and trends. Newspapers report both information that is factual in nature and also share opinions. Generally, however, they will not take a “big picture” approach or contain information about larger trends.
Academic and Trade Journals: Academic and trade journals contain the most up-to-date information and research in industry, business, and academia. Journal articles come in several forms, including literature reviews that overview current and past research, articles on theories and history, or articles on specific processes or research.
Government Reports and Legal Documents: The government releases information intended for its own use or for public use. These types of documents can be an excellent source of information. An example of a government report is the U.S. Census data. Most government reports and legal documents can now be accessed online.
Press Releases and Advertising: Companies and special interest groups produce texts to help persuade readers to act in some way or inform the public about some new development.
Flyers, Pamphlets, Leaflets: While some flyers or pamphlets are created by reputable sources, because of the ease in which they are created, many less-than-reputable sources also produce these. They are useful for quick reference or very general information.
Multimedia: Printed material is certainly not the only option for finding research. Also consider media sources such as radio and television broadcasts, interactive talks, and public meetings. Though we often go online for this information, libraries and archives often have a wealth of nondigitized media or media that is not available online.
Websites: Most of the information on the Internet is distributed via websites. Websites vary widely in quality of information and validity of sources.
Blogs and personal websites: Blogs and personal sites vary widely in quality of information and validity of sources. For example, many prestigious journalists and public figures may have blogs, which may be more credible of a blog than most.
Social media, message boards, discussion lists, and chat rooms: These types of sources exist for all kinds of disciplines, both in and outside of the university. Some may be useful, depending on the topic you are studying, but just like personal websites, the information is not always credible.
Multimedia: The Internet has a multitude of multimedia resources including online broadcasts and news, images, audio files, podcasts and interactive websites.
Structure of a Research Paper
While academic disciplines vary on the exact format and style of journal articles in their field, most articles contain similar content and are divided in parts that typically follow the same logical flow. Following is a list of the parts commonly found in research articles.
- Literature Review
Research papers are organized so that the information flow resembles an hourglass in that it goes from general to specific and then back to general again. The introduction and literature review sections will introduce the problem and provide general information. The methods and results will provide specific, detailed information about this research project and the discussion/conclusion will discuss the findings in a larger context. The following section will describe each of these parts in more detail. Additional information can be found in the Resources section of this module and in the Suggested Readings.
The title should be specific and indicate the problem the research project addresses using keywords that will be helpful in literature reviews in the future.
The abstract is used by readers to quickly review the overall content of the paper. Journals typically place strict word limits on abstracts, such as 200 words, making them a challenge to write. The abstract should provide a complete synopsis of the research paper and should introduce the topic and the specific research question, provide a statement regarding methodology and should provide a general statement about the results and the findings. Because it is really a summary of the entire research paper, it is often written last.
The introduction begins by introducing the broad overall topic and providing basic background information. It then narrows down to the specific research question relating to this topic. It provides the purpose and focus for the rest of the paper and sets up the justification for the research.
The purpose of the literature review is to describe past important research and it relate it specifically to the research problem. It should be a synthesis of the previous literature and the new idea being researched. The review should examine the major theories related to the topic to date and their contributors. It should include all relevant findings from credible sources, such as academic books and peer-reviewed journal articles.
The methods section will describe the research design and methodology used to complete to the study. The general rule of thumb is that readers should be provided with enough detail to replicate the study.
In this section, the results of the analysis are presented. How the results are presented will depend upon whether the research study was quantitative or qualitative in nature. This section should focus only on results that are directly related to the research or the problem. Graphs and tables should only be used when there is too much data to efficiently include it within the text. This section should present the results, but not discuss their significance.
This section should be a discussion of the results and the implications on the field, as well as other fields. The hypothesis should be answered and validated by the interpretation of the results. This section should also discuss how the results relate to previous research mentioned in the literature review, any cautions about the findings, and potential for future research.
The research paper is not complete without the list of references. This section should be an alphabetized list of all the academic sources of information utilized in the paper. The format of the references will match the format and style used in the paper. Common formats include APA, MLA, Harvard and so forth.