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Types of Sources

Summary:

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.

Digital sources

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.

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