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Research Process: 2. Understand Information Sources

Understand Information Sources

Understand the differences between information types will help you choose the right resources to complete your research.

Peer Reviewed/Scholarly vs. Popular Resources

A peer-reviewed article has been reviewed by professionals or scholars in the field prior to publication, establishing the credibility of the information.

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Peer-Reviewed / Scholarly

Popular

Peer Review Most scholarly articles are peer reviewed. Experts in the field review and critically evaluate articles before publication. Articles are not critically evaluated by discipline experts.
Length of articles

Longer articles

In-depth and detailed coverage

Author

Author usually an expert

Credentials and contact information listed

Staff writer or freelance writer

Articles often unsigned

Language

Discipline-specific vocabulary

Specialized knowledge required to understand the article

No specialized background knowledge of the subject matter required to understand the article
Intended audience Researchers and experts in the field General public
Article layout and design Structured articles with sub-headings such as Abstract, Literature review, Methodology, Results, Conclusion, Bibliography Often do not follow a specific format or structure
Images

Images that support the text are often charts or tables

Few colour photos

Photos and other images often support the text
Examples

Journals, such as Journal of Financial Economics

Books can be scholarly if they fit most of the criteria above. However, books are rarely peer reviewed, unless they contain articles that have appeared in journals. 

Magazines, such as Maclean's

Newspapers, such as the New York Times

Websites, such as WebMD.com

 
Primary vs. Secondary Sources
 
Primary: A document or object created at the time of the event and offering an inside view of an event by someone who witnessed it.

Examples: diaries, letters, memoirs, speeches, manuscripts, interviews, statistics, treaties, laws, research articles, records of information collected by the government, organizations, committees (can all be primary sources)

Secondary: A document created after an event and expressing an opinion, argument, interpretation or analysis based on primary sources describing the original event.

Examples: history text books, historical movies and biographies (can all be secondary sources)

Document Types and Formats

Document types include:

Annual Report, Case Study, Statistics, Government Information, Interview, Image, News, Review, Standards, SWOT, Company Report, Country Report, Industry Report, Working Paper, etc.


Formats include:

Magazine, Newspaper, Book, Reports, Scholarly Journal, Trade Journal, Conference Paper, e-Book, Audio Visual, etc.