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English 201 Research Process Exercise: Source Types

Exercise for Engl 201 students


Your assignment may require you to use different source types.Your goal is to learn all that you can about source types in the allotted time and then to teach your classmates what you’ve learned.

There are many source types and your time is limited, so focus on magazines and academic journals.

Explore the recommended resources and add to what you already know about source types.

Source Types & Information Evaluation

Identifying the type of source you are using can help in evaluating the source.

With any research project you should consult and compare multiple sources. One reason to do this is to compare the information you find. Another reason is to overcome the shortcomings of a source by using another source type. For example, you may find a newspaper article which provides relevant and timely facts on your topic. However, the newspaper article is short and offers limited information and no analysis. Using a more in-depth source like a book or journal article will help you balance your research.

Popular and Scholarly Periodicals

Below are some identifying features of popular and scholarly periodicals. Note that sources occur on a popular/scholarly continuum. Some sources are clearly popular or scholarly while others have mixed features.  Determining a source's popular or scholarly orientation will help you evaluate its appropriateness for your research purpose. For example, using some popular sources may work for an introductory undergraduate project, while all scholarly sources may be required for more advanced work, especially in a student's major field of study.

Popular Periodicals--Magazines

Scholarly Periodicals---Academic Journals

Written by journalists

Written by experts in their field

Reviewed by an editorial staff

Often reviewed by peers within the discipline

Purpose to inform, persuade, or entertain

Purpose to present research findings, in-depth studies

General audience

More educated or professional audience

Language aimed at a general audience

May use vocabulary specific to the field

Tone varies (serious, humorous, satirical, etc.)

Tone serious

No bibliography or works cited

Bibliography or works cited for articles

Contain many photographs, illustrations, drawings

Few graphics, many charts and graphs

Extensive advertising

Selective advertising

Articles usually short (1-5 pages)

Articles usually longer

Examples: Time, Cosmopolitan, New Republic

Examples: Journal of Psychology, Comparative Literature, Journal of Political Marketing

Recommended Resource - Examples

Examine the resources linked below. Is the resource a magazine or an academic journal? How can you tell? How might each of these sources contribute to a research paper on the topic of cell phones?

Elder, Anastasia D. "College Students' Cell Phone Use, Beliefs, and Effects on Their Learning." College Student Journal, vol.47, no.4, 2013, pp. 585-592. EBSCO MegaFILE,

Pfeffermann, Guy. "Technology, Education and the Developing World." Bized, July/Aug. 2013, pp. 30-33. Academic Search Premier,

Nielsen, Lisa and Willyn Webb. "Teaching with Cell Phones." Educational Leadership, vol. 72, no. 8, May 2015, pp. 70-73. MasterFILE Premier (EBSCOhost),

Recommended Resource - Databases

Databases will often help you identify source types. Navigate to the library's home page and search using Quick Search.

Extra Credit - More Resource Types

The Research 101 guide has more information on source types.

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