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Library Research: Your Information Needs

Understanding Source Types

Chose information sources based on your needs and what your instructor wants for a research assignment

Your Instructor wants proof that you have consulted a variety of information sources in your research. 

Did they give specific instructions regarding what kind of sources they want you to use?

Or specific rules for what sources they will not allow?

Do you know the difference between an 'academic' or 'scholarly' source and a 'popular' source?

The most common sources of information for College research are explained below.

Start with general information sources, and then go to more specific information sources.



From newspapers, magazines and journals, articles are focused and specific.

Newspaper and Magazine Articles:

  • written for the general public
  • authors are usually journalists
  • topics of popular and current interest
  • fact-checked in editorial process

Journal Articles:

  • scholarly and academic
  • written by academics and researchers working in a particular field of study
  • use specialized vocabulary and assume prior knowledge of topic
  • report research findings and critical analysis of a topic
  • can be "peer reviewed" - editorial process where a panel of other academics/researchers review the content to ensure it is worthy of publication

Trade Journals:

  • written for a specific profession or occupation
  • authors are usually in the target profession
  • topics of current interest to that profession

What about Google or Google Scholar?

It is possible to find trustworthy reliable sources via search engines like Google but you will like encounter a 'pay-wall' or have to spend time verifying that the author is trustworthy. 

Instead start via the Camosun library databases where you will not face pay-walls or questionable content.

Encyclopedias & Dictionaries

Encyclopedias & Dictionaries

Also called reference sources these can be general or specialized 

  • Camosun Library has many available online (see circled links on homepage to left)
  • will provide you with definitions and background information, both basic and in-depth
  • general reference sources include titles like The World Book and the Canadian Oxford Dictionary
  • subject specific (specialized) reference sources will provide more detailed coverage than general reference sources
  • specialized reference sources include titles like the Dictionary of Media and Communications and the Encyclopedia of Anthropology


What about Wikipedia?

You can consult Wikipedia, but it is not an authoritative source.  Any information found there must be verified in another authoritative source that you can include in your works cited list.

Instead look for your topic in the "Research Starter Database" in the list Databases on the Camosun Library website.

What's a Periodical?

Periodical means something published at regular intervals. This is why newspapers are also called "Dailies." Most magazines and trade journals are published monthly, and academic journals may be published every month or two, four or more times a year.

Books and e-books

Books and eBooks

Camosun has both print books and electronic books.  

  • in-depth and comprehensive coverage of a topic
  • - e-books can be accessed from anywhere 24/7!
  • can be an entire book by one author, or a collection (anthology) of articles/essays by several authors
  • sometimes you need only consult a single chapter or section
  • those published by university or scholarly publishers have a more rigorous editorial process than a "popular" book publisher.

What about Amazon or Google Books?

  • Both services provide access to numerous books
  • Like websites - anyone can publish an eBook and sell it online
  • You will have to pay for access
  • You will also have to investigate the author's qualifications

Instead use the Camosun Library and limit your search results to Books and eBooks.


Websites & Online Sources

Using these sources in your research means you have to investigate how trustworthy and accurate the information is: 

  • some sites have obvious bias, but sometimes the bias is harder to uncover
  • who funded the research might indicate a bias in favor of a certain industry or point of view
  • look for more information on the author and organization
  • Don't trust sites that are click-bait, conspiracy-based, or sites that try to incite your emotions

Some tips for finding quality online sources:

  • stick to sites that cite their sources and provide links to them
  • governments and non-governmental agencies  publish reports online, including their sources/citations
  • find the online equivalent of a reliable well-researched print or formerly print source, The Times-Colonist Newspaper for example
  • look up the university/organization that a researcher is associated with

Instead use the Camosun Library Databases and Research Guides, these are packed with pre-selected trustworthy sources

This image links to the Website Evaluation Guide & Tutorial.

Source type Icons

Image of Print book cover