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How to Find Sources | Scholarly Articles, Books, Etc.
Published on June 13, 2022 by Eoghan Ryan . Revised on May 31, 2023.
It’s important to know how to find relevant sources when writing a research paper , literature review , or systematic review .
The types of sources you need will depend on the stage you are at in the research process , but all sources that you use should be credible , up to date, and relevant to your research topic.
There are three main places to look for sources to use in your research:
- Your institution’s library
- Other online resources
Table of contents
Library resources, other online sources, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about finding sources.
You can search for scholarly sources online using databases and search engines like Google Scholar . These provide a range of search functions that can help you to find the most relevant sources.
If you are searching for a specific article or book, include the title or the author’s name. Alternatively, if you’re just looking for sources related to your research problem , you can search using keywords. In this case, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the scope of your project and of the most relevant keywords.
Databases can be general (interdisciplinary) or subject-specific.
- You can use subject-specific databases to ensure that the results are relevant to your field.
- When using a general database or search engine, you can still filter results by selecting specific subjects or disciplines.
Example: JSTOR discipline search filter
Check the table below to find a database that’s relevant to your research.
To get started, you might also try Google Scholar , an academic search engine that can help you find relevant books and articles. Its “Cited by” function lets you see the number of times a source has been cited. This can tell you something about a source’s credibility and importance to the field.
Example: Google Scholar “Cited by” function
Boolean operators can also help to narrow or expand your search.
Boolean operators are words and symbols like AND , OR , and NOT that you can use to include or exclude keywords to refine your results. For example, a search for “Nietzsche NOT nihilism” will provide results that include the word “Nietzsche” but exclude results that contain the word “nihilism.”
Many databases and search engines have an advanced search function that allows you to refine results in a similar way without typing the Boolean operators manually.
Example: Project Muse advanced search
Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.
You can find helpful print sources in your institution’s library. These include:
- Journal articles
- Newspapers and magazines
Make sure that the sources you consult are appropriate to your research.
You can find these sources using your institution’s library database. This will allow you to explore the library’s catalog and to search relevant keywords. You can refine your results using Boolean operators .
Once you have found a relevant print source in the library:
- Consider what books are beside it. This can be a great way to find related sources, especially when you’ve found a secondary or tertiary source instead of a primary source .
- Consult the index and bibliography to find the bibliographic information of other relevant sources.
You can consult popular online sources to learn more about your topic. These include:
- Crowdsourced encyclopedias like Wikipedia
You can find these sources using search engines. To refine your search, use Boolean operators in combination with relevant keywords.
However, exercise caution when using online sources. Consider what kinds of sources are appropriate for your research and make sure the sites are credible .
Look for sites with trusted domain extensions:
- URLs that end with .edu are educational resources.
- URLs that end with .gov are government-related resources.
- DOIs often indicate that an article is published in a peer-reviewed , scientific article.
Other sites can still be used, but you should evaluate them carefully and consider alternatives.
If you want to know more about ChatGPT, AI tools , citation , and plagiarism , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.
- ChatGPT vs human editor
- ChatGPT citations
- Is ChatGPT trustworthy?
- Using ChatGPT for your studies
- What is ChatGPT?
- Chicago style
- Types of plagiarism
- Avoiding plagiarism
- Academic integrity
- Consequences of plagiarism
- Common knowledge
You can find sources online using databases and search engines like Google Scholar . Use Boolean operators or advanced search functions to narrow or expand your search.
For print sources, you can use your institution’s library database. This will allow you to explore the library’s catalog and to search relevant keywords.
It is important to find credible sources and use those that you can be sure are sufficiently scholarly .
- Consult your institute’s library to find out what books, journals, research databases, and other types of sources they provide access to.
- Look for books published by respected academic publishing houses and university presses, as these are typically considered trustworthy sources.
- Look for journals that use a peer review process. This means that experts in the field assess the quality and credibility of an article before it is published.
When searching for sources in databases, think of specific keywords that are relevant to your topic , and consider variations on them or synonyms that might be relevant.
Once you have a clear idea of your research parameters and key terms, choose a database that is relevant to your research (e.g., Medline, JSTOR, Project MUSE).
Find out if the database has a “subject search” option. This can help to refine your search. Use Boolean operators to combine your keywords, exclude specific search terms, and search exact phrases to find the most relevant sources.
There are many types of sources commonly used in research. These include:
You’ll likely use a variety of these sources throughout the research process , and the kinds of sources you use will depend on your research topic and goals.
Scholarly sources are written by experts in their field and are typically subjected to peer review . They are intended for a scholarly audience, include a full bibliography, and use scholarly or technical language. For these reasons, they are typically considered credible sources .
Popular sources like magazines and news articles are typically written by journalists. These types of sources usually don’t include a bibliography and are written for a popular, rather than academic, audience. They are not always reliable and may be written from a biased or uninformed perspective, but they can still be cited in some contexts.
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How to find resources by format
Why use primary resources.
Primary sources provide first-hand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic under investigation. They present original thinking, report a discovery, or share new information. Use primary sources in historical research, or researching precedent or context on a particular topic.
Primary sources are created by witnesses or recorders who experienced the events or conditions being documented. They are from the time period involved and have not been filtered through subsequent interpretation or evaluation.
Determining what is a primary source can be tricky and depends on the topic, subject, and discipline you are researching. The types of information that can be considered primary sources may vary depending on the subject or discipline. Also how you are using the material in your paper or project can effect this determination. For some papers or projects it may be important to view the original object but for others a primary source that has been scanned and is online is acceptable.
The types of information that can be considered primary sources may vary depending on the subject or discipline, and also on how you are using the material. For example:
- A magazine article reporting on recent studies linking the reduction of energy consumption to the compact fluorescent light bulb would be a secondary source.
- A research article or study proving this would be a primary source.
- However, if you were studying how compact fluorescent light bulbs are presented in the popular media, the magazine article could be considered a primary source.
Tip: If you are unsure if a source you have found is primary, talk to your instructor, librarian, or archivist.
Primary sources are original records created at the time historical events occurred or well after events in the form of memoirs and oral histories. Primary sources are distinguished from secondary sources, which are produced some time after an event, and serve to analyze or interpret primary sources.
Archives and Manuscripts consist of original unpublished, historical and contemporary material.
Primary sources in reproduction For some levels of research it is acceptable and appropriate to use primary sources that have been reproduced and published. A few examples include microfilmed newspaper articles, published diaries, and scanned images of original documents published in book form.
When beginning your research, searching for primary sources is similar to other kinds of research:
- Brainstorm the kinds of sources you might need. News sources? Journals from the time period? Government documents? Have a date range in mind to narrow your search.
- Diaries, letters, and other personal papers are often unique items held in archives or special collections. One trick is to google the name of the person you're researching and the word "papers." If they are being held at another institution, you might find out if they've been digitized or not.
- Brainstorm and track your keywords and subject terms. Use a thesaurus to think of more keywords or older terms you may not be familiar with, but may have been commonly used during the time period you are researching. Are the records likely to be in another language or another alphabet? Do you have expertise in this language? Knowing ahead of time might help with your search.
- Think about where records might be held. Because of historical colonialism and imperialism, some communities may not have control over their own records and materials. They may be held in another country entirely.
- Arrange a visit to our Archives and Special Collections if your topic is related to the University or Minnesota history.
- Browse our collections of online primary source databases .
Searching in the Libraries collections
The catalog provides many types of primary sources: original archival materials, print materials with the original texts, printed facsimiles, and online resources that link to digital facsimiles. You can recognize such an item if the word "sources" appears in the subject. That word and certain others, especially when searched as a subject keyword, will help narrow your search results to primary sources.
Archival materials on campus are searchable in more depth via this their description of their collections .
When searching our collection, use the Libraries' Advanced Search and enter your keywords, plus the subject term source to your search. For example, this is an Advanced search with two subject contains filters set as "Holocaust’ and ‘sources." The date range is set to start "1937" and end "1950."
Start with a broad search; you can always narrow it further after you begin searching.
For some topics, try a more specific subject keyword instead, for example:
- personal narratives
Depending on the focus of your research, there are other formats that may serve as primary source material. Here are some examples:
- archaeological artifacts
- birth certificates
- census material
- congressional/parliamentary hearings and reports
- county records
- documentary photographs
- government documents
- news sources
- oral histories
- organizational minutes
- records of organizations
- voting records
Look for subject guides in the arts, humanities, social sciences and professional programs. Each list varies and may include recommended primary source databases or other resources in that field. Even though a list may not include a primary source section, the librarian for that subject area can suggest resources and/or strategies for your topic. Consult the complete list of subject librarians if you need assistance in other areas of research.
History, Humanities, Social Sciences
Primary sources in these disciplines are original records created at the time historical events occurred or well after events in the form of memoirs and oral histories.
Examples include: Letters, manuscripts, diaries, rare books, historical photographs, first-hand accounts, or documentary sources on a subject, person, event or issue; newspapers written at the time of an event, song, or film from time period, historical maps, government reports or data, and more.
Primary Sources in Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences
South Asia Primary Sources
Health Sciences, Sciences, Engineering
Primary sources in the sciences are original materials or information on which other research is based. Primary sources are also sets of data, such as health statistics, which have been tabulated, but not interpreted.
Examples include: Journal articles of original research (written by person who did the research), patents, conference papers, dissertations, technical reports, or something personal like Einstein’s diary).
Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Sources in the Health Sciences
Patent Research Guide
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- Harvard Library
- Research Guides
- Faculty of Arts & Sciences Libraries
Library Research Guide for the History of Science: Introduction
- What is a Primary Source?
- Senior Theses 2023
- Background and Context/Biography
- Exploring Your Topic
- Using HOLLIS
- What is a Secondary Source?
Knowing a primary source when you see one, kinds of primary sources, find primary sources in hollis, using digital libraries and collections online, using bibliographies.
- Exploring the Special Collections at Harvard
- Citing Sources & Organizing Research
Primary sources provide first-hand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic under investigation. They are created by witnesses or recorders who experienced the events or conditions being documented.
Often these sources are created at the time when the events or conditions are occurring, but primary sources can also include autobiographies, memoirs, and oral histories recorded later.
Primary sources are characterized by their content, regardless of the format available. (Handwritten notes could be published; the published book might be digitized or put on microfilm, but those notes are still primary sources in any format).
Some types of primary sources:
- Original documents (excerpts or translations acceptable): Diaries, speeches, manuscripts, letters, interviews, news film footage, contemporary newspaper articles, autobiographies, official records, pamphlets, meeting notes, photographs, contemporary sketches
- Creative works : Poetry, drama, novels, music, art
- Relics or artifacts : Furniture, clothing, buildings
Examples of primary sources include:
- A poster from the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters' 1962 strike
- The papers of William James
- A 1970 U.S. State Dept document updating Nixon on U.S.-Soviet space cooperation activities (Harvard login)
- A British pamphlet: "Electric Lighting for Country Houses," 1898
- Phineas Gage's skull
- The text of J. Robert Oppenheimer's "Atomic Weapons" presentation to the American Philosophical Society
Outline of Primary Sources for History
Archives and Manuscripts
Archives and manuscripts are the unpublished records of persons (letters, notes, diaries, etc.) and organizations. What are Archives? Usually each archival collection has a (short) catalog record and a detailed finding aid (which is often available online).
- "Catalog record” refers to the kind of record found in library online catalogs, similar to those for books, although often a bit longer. Example of an Archive record .
- “Finding aid” (sometimes called an inventory) generally refers to a list of the folder labels for the collection, accompanied by a brief collection overview (scope and contents note) and a biographical (or institutional) note on the creator of the collection. Finding aids may be as long as needed given the size of the collection. They vary considerably according to the practices of individual repositories. Example of a Finding aid .
To find Archives and manuscripts at Harvard, go to HOLLIS Advanced search . Search your keywords or Subject terms (see the HOLLIS page of this guide ) in the Library Catalog, limiting to Resource Type: Archives/Manuscripts. You can choose the library at the right (Search Scope). Countway Medicine has abundant medical archives, and Schlesinger has many archives of women activists, many in health and reproductive rights fields. Sample search on Subject: Women health .
Library Research Guide for Finding Manuscripts and Archival Collections explains
- How to find archives and manuscripts at Harvard
- How to find archives and manuscripts elsewhere in US via search tools and via subject guides .
- How to find archives and manuscripts in Europe and elsewhere.
- Requesting digitization of archival material from Harvard and from other repositories .
For digitized archival material together with other kinds of primary sources:
- Finding Primary Sources Online offers general instructions for finding primary sources online and a list of resources by region and country
- Online Primary Source Collections for the History of Science lists digital collections at Harvard and beyond by topic.
- Online Primary Source Collections for History lists digital collections at Harvard and beyond by topic.
Methods for finding books are described under the HOLLIS page of this guide and in the Finding Primary Sources in HOLLIS box on this page.
- Book Reviews may give an indication as to how a scientific work was received. See: Finding Book Reviews .
- Numerous, especially pre-1923 books (as well as periodicals and other sources) can be found and full text searched in several digital libraries (see box on this page).
Scientific articles :
Web of Science Citation Indexes (Harvard Login) (1900- ) articles in all areas of science. Includes medical articles not in PubMed. You can use the Cited Reference search in the Web of Science to find primary source articles that cite a specified article, thus getting an idea of its reception. More information on the Web of Science .
PubMed (1946- ) covers, usually with abstracts, periodical articles on all areas of medicine. - --Be sure to look at the MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) at the bottom of pertinent records. Very recent articles may not as yet received their MeSH terms. So look at older records to find the MeSH terms, and use a variety of keywords as well as MeSH terms to find the new records. --The MeSH terms are the same as the Medical Subject terms found in HOLLIS. --Hit Free article or Try Harvard Library, not the publisher's name to see full text
JSTOR (Harvard Login) offers full-text of complete runs (up to about 5 years ago) of over 400 journals. JSTOR allows simultaneous or individual searching, full-text searching optional, numerous journals in a variety of fields of science and medicine. See the list at the bottom of the Advanced search screen. JSTOR searches the "Notes and News" sections of journals ( Science is especially rich in this material). In Advanced Search choose Item Type: Miscellaneous to limit largely to "Notes and News".
PsycINFO) (Harvard Login) (1872- ) indexes the professional and academic literature in psychology and related disciplines
Many more scientific periodical indexes are listed in the Library Research Guide for the History of Science .
General interest magazines and periodicals see:
American Periodicals Series Online (Harvard Login) (1740-1900) offers full text of about 1100 American periodicals. Includes several scientific and medical journals including the American Journal of Science and the Medical Repository. In cases where a periodical started before 1900, coverage is included until 1940.
British Periodicals (Harvard Login) (1681-1920) offers full text for several hundred British periodicals.
Ethnic NewsWatch (Harvard Login) (1959- ) is a full text database of the newspapers, magazines, and journals of the ethnic, minority and native press.
Periodicals Index Online (Harvard Login) indexes contents of thousands of US and European journals in the humanities and social sciences, from their first issues to 1995.
Reader's Guide Retrospective (WilsonWeb) (Harvard Login) (1890-1982) indexes many American popular periodicals.
Many more general periodical indexes are listed in Finding Articles in General and Popular Periodicals (North America and Western Europe) .
Articles in non-science fields (religion, public policy): see the list in the Library Research Guide for History .
Professional/Trade : Aimed at particular trades or professions. See the Library Research Guide for History
Newspaper articles : see the Guide to Newspapers and Newspaper Indexes .
Personal accounts . These are first person narratives recalling or describing a person’s life and opinions. These include Diaries, memoirs, autobiographies, and when delivered orally and recorded: Oral histories and Interviews.
National Library of Medicine Oral Histories
Regulatory Oral History Hub (Kenan Institute for Ethics, Duke University) offers links to digital collections containing interviews with regulators, lawyers, and judges. Mainly U.S.
Visual sources :
Records for many, but by no means all, individual Harvard University Library images are available in HOLLIS Images , an online catalog of images. Records include subjects and a thumbnail image. HOLLIS Images is included in HOLLIS searches.
Science & Society Picture Library offers over 50,000 images from the Science Museum (London), the National Museum of Photography, Film & Television and the National Railway Museum.
Database of Scientific Illustrators (DSI) includes over 12500 illustrators in natural history, medicine, technology and various sciences worldwide, c.1450-1950. Living illustrators excluded.
NYPL Digital Gallery Pictures of Science: 700 Years of Scientific and Medical Illustration
Images from the History of Medicine (IHM) includes prints and photographs from the U.S. National Library of Medicine. (The IHM is contained within a larger NLM image database, so this link goes to a specialized search).
Images From the History of the Public Health Service: a Photographic Exhibit .
To find films in HOLLIS , search your topic keywords, then on the right side of the results screen, look at Resource Type and choose video/film.
To find books about films about your topic, search your topic keywords AND "in motion pictures" (in "")
Film Platform offers numerous documentary films on a wide variety of subjects. There are collections on several topics. Searches can be filtered by topic, country of production, and language.
A list of general sources for images and film is available in the Library Research Guide for History and additional sources for the history of science in Library Research Guide for the History of Science .
Government documents often concern matters of science and health policy. For Congressional documents, especially committee reports, see ProQuest Congressional (Harvard Login ).
HathiTrust Digital Library . Each full text item is linked to a standard library catalog record, thus providing good metadata and subject terms. The catalog can be searched separately. Many government documents are full text viewable. Search US government department as Author.
More sources are listed in the Library Research Guide for History
For artifacts and other objects , the Historic Scientific Instruments Collection in the Science Center includes over 15,000 instruments, often with contemporary documentation, from 1450 through the 20th century worldwide.
Waywiser, online database of the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments .
Warren Anatomical Museum of the Center for the History of Medicine in the Countway Library of Medicine has a rich collection of medical artifacts and specimens.
Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology
Fall 2020: these collections are closed during the pandemic. Check out their links above to see what they have available online.
Primary Source Terms :
You can limit HOLLIS searches to your time period, but sources may be published later, such as a person's diary published posthumously. Find these with these special Subject terms.
You can use the following terms to search HOLLIS for primary sources:
- Description and travel
- Notebooks, sketchbooks, etc.
- Personal narratives (refers to accounts of wars and diseases only)
- Pictorial works
- Sources (usually refers to collections of published primary sources)
Include these terms with your topical words in HOLLIS searches. For example: tuberculosis personal narratives
Online Primary Source Collections for the History of Science lists digital collections at Harvard and beyond by topic
Google Book Search, HathiTrust Digital Library and Internet Archives offer books and periodicals digitized from numerous libraries. Only out-of-copyright, generally post-1923, books are fully viewable. Each of these three digital libraries allows searching full text over their entire collections.
Google Book Search
HathiTrust Digital Library . Each full text item is linked to a standard library catalog record, thus providing good metadata and subject terms. The catalog can be searched separately. Many post-1923 out-of-copyright books, especially government documents, are full text viewable. You can search within copyright books to see what page your search term is on.
Internet Archive now offers a beta full text search. Put your terms (phrases or personal names, in quotation marks (""), work best) in the search box.
The Online Books Page arranges electronic texts by Library of Congress call numbers and is searchable (but not full text searchable). Includes books not in Google Books, HathiTrust, or Internet Archive. Has many other useful features.
Medical Heritage Library . Information about the Medical Heritage Library. Now searchable full text.
UK Medical Heritage Library
Biodiversity Heritage Library
Contagion: Historical Views of Diseases and Epidemics (1493-1922) provides digitized historical, manuscript, and image resources selected from Harvard University libraries and archives.
Expeditions and Discoveries (1626-1953) features nine expeditions in anthropology and archaeology, astronomy, botany, and oceanography in which Harvard University played a significant role. Includes manuscripts and records, published materials, visual works, and maps from 14 Harvard repositories.
Defining Gender Online: Five Centuries of Advice Literature for Men and Women (1450-1910).
Twentieth Century Advice Literature: North American Guides on Race, Sex, Gender, and the Family.
Many more general History digital libraries and collections: Library Research Guide for History
More History of Science digital libraries: Library Research Guide for the History of Science .
There may already be a detailed list of sources (a bibliography) for your topic.
A bibliography of eugenics , by Samuel J. Holmes ... Berkeley, Calif., University of California press, 1924, 514 p. ( University of California publications in zoology . vol. XXV) Full text online .
Look for specialized subject bibliographies in HOLLIS Catalog . Example . WorldCat can do similar searches in the Subject Keyword field for non-Harvard holdings.
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- Next: Exploring the Special Collections at Harvard >>
- Last Updated: Oct 12, 2023 9:19 PM
- URL: https://guides.library.harvard.edu/HistSciInfo
Harvard University Digital Accessibility Policy
Finding Primary Sources for Teachers and Students
Finding primary sources.
Primary Sources from DocsTeach Thousands of online primary source documents from the National Archives to bring the past to life as classroom teaching tools.
National Archives Catalog Find online primary source materials for classroom & student projects from the National Archive's online catalog (OPA).
Beginning Research Activities Student activities designed to help you navigate the National Archives resources and web site.
Online Exhibits Exhibits featuring online documents, photos and primary sources from the National Archives
Our Documents 100 Milestone Documents of American History
Getting Started with Research How to start researching records at the National Archives. Finding your topic, identifying records, planning a visit, and more.
Online Research Tools & Aids Introduction to catalogs, databases, and other online resources.
Citing Primary Sources Citing Records in the National Archives of the United States
Searching for primary sources
What is a primary source ? A primary source is a resource that is an original, first-hand, or direct account or record from a time period, place, or person. It is usually created, written, or made during or close to an event, time period or by the person. A secondary source provides information that restates, examines, or interprets information from primary sources.
The table below shows examples of primary and secondary sources from different disciplines.
Searching for primary sources in Library Search
From the library homepage, you can use Library Search to help you find primary sources:
- Enter a keyword that describes your topic. It is best to use nouns—the name of an event, person or thing you are looking for. Examples: Burning Man, Maya Miller, Comstock Lode, Basque culture.
- When you get a list of results, choose formats that are relevant to your research based on the chart above from the “ Resource type ” filter. This will be either on the left side of your screen or a menu under the filter icon, depending on the size of your screen. Choose "Show More" to see a complete list.
The "Resource Type" filter box in Library Search. The "Show More" option is enclosed by a red box to indicate this is where you click if you want to see the entire list of Resource Types.
Relevant resource types might include the following formats, among others:
- Archival Material / Manuscripts
- Government Documents
When finished, click “Apply Filters.” This will filter your results to only show those types of content.
Searching with primary source databases
Another helpful tool in your search may be a Primary Source database, found on the A-Z Databases page in the "All Databases Types" drop-down menu.
The A-Z Databases List. There are three drop-down menus: "All Subjects," "All Database Types," and "All Vendors/Providers." The screenshot shows the full list of database types under the "All Database Types" drop-down menu with "Primary Sources" selected and highlighted in blue.
Searching for Nevada-related primary sources
If you are researching Nevada-related topics, you may also want to explore the collections in Special Collections and University Archives . These collections may include photographs, manuscripts, artifacts, personal papers, digital items, and more.
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Evaluating Sources: Where to Begin
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It’s difficult to evaluate a source if you’re not sure where to begin. Before getting started, it’s important to establish what genre of research you need. Below is a breakdown of how sources are often separated. Once you recognize the differences in sources, it becomes easier to locate exactly what you need and evaluate whether the sources you find seem credible.
Scholarly vs. Popular Sources
Most sources fall into two categories: scholarly and popular. Scholarly sources are written by highly-qualified researchers and have a thorough publication process, which usually involves peer-reviewing and an extensive list of references at the end of the text. Scholarly sources often have a specific audience in mind, most likely other experts in the particular field of study. Examples of scholarly sources include books and academic journals written by scholars and experts.
Popular sources, on the other hand, are written by and intended for a general audience. Popular sources are not peer-reviewed, and they do not usually include a reference list. Examples of popular sources range from some books and magazines to websites and blogs.
If you’re unsure whether the source you’re reading is scholarly or popular, ask yourself these questions:
- Who is the intended audience?
- Does the author have credentials?
- Is the text peer-reviewed?
- Is there a reference list or Works Cited page?
If the source you’re examining fits the above criteria, it is most likely a scholarly source.
When searching for sources, different topics might require more scholarly sources or more popular sources. For example, if you were researching the effects of a certain treatment for cancer patients, you would most likely turn to scholarly sources written by experts. However, if you wanted to examine how different news outlets and social media sites portrayed a recent presidential debate, you would instead turn to popular sources.
Understanding the difference between a scholarly and popular source is a crucial step in evaluating credible sources.
Primary vs. Secondary Sources
Just as sources can be scholarly or popular, sources are also divided into primary and secondary.
A primary source is a firsthand or eyewitness account of information by an individual close to the topic. Examples of primary sources include autobiographies, personal correspondence (e.g., diary entries, letters), government documents, works of art and literature, statistics and data, and newspaper articles written by reporters close to the source. Today, even some social media posts are considered primary sources, because they are firsthand accounts of information.
A secondary source is a source that is more removed from an event, usually written after the event has happened. Examples of secondary sources include biographies, interpretation of statistics and data, and anything written after an historical event or analyzing something that already happened (e.g., examining a work of art from 100 years ago).
Depending on your research, you may need more primary or secondary sources. For example, if you wanted to trace the history of whale sightings off the coast of Alaska, you would probably need to find some historical documents that provide firsthand information on whale sightings from a few hundred years ago. However, if you wanted to look at how boating has changed whale migration patterns, you would probably rely on some secondary sources that interpret data and statistics.
When evaluating sources, being able to determine whether it’s primary or secondary is helpful as you continue in your research.