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ENGL 1100: Writing I (Stockwell): Types of sources

Types of Articles

When we think of "finding an article" we often think of newspapers or magazines. But there are several kinds of articles your assignments might require:

News - From newspapers reporting daily events (New York Times)

Magazine - Often called "popular" articles, these are general or for a specific interest (Time, Discover)

Trade - By and for specific industries (Advertising Age)

Scholarly - Reporting research, written by and for scholars and researchers (American Journal of Psychology)

See the chart below for more information on how to tell if an article is scholarly or popular.

Scholarly vs. Popular

Scholarly Articles Popular Articles
Authorship Scholars/experts in a field. Authors are always named and their institutional affiliation is given. Staff writers or journalists.
Publisher University presses, professional associations, research organizations. For profit corporations.
Review Peer review process by other experts in the field of study. Fact-checker and/or editor.
Audience Researchers, scholars, other experts. General public.
Content/Length Usually longer, focusing on a research study, or a review of research literature in a field. Often shorter, with a more general focus.
Language Technical, discipline specific terminology. Written for a general reader with easier vocabulary.
Sources Cited in a bibliography adhering to a specific citation style (MLA, APA, etc.) Usually not cited, and when they are, are not generally standardized.
Structure Usually includes: abstract, literature review, methodology, results, conclusion, and bibliography. Specific formats are not followed.
Advertising Some. Copious.

Books and Multimedia

Books and multimedia can be fictional (made-up) or non-fiction (based on facts/evidence). Most often, for research purposes you are looking for non-fictional sources to provide information about your topic.

Non-fiction academic books provide in-depth, detailed coverage of a topic and as well as background information.

Reference books, while non-fiction, provide a more generalized introduction and basic background information related to a topic. They can be a great starting point when you have a topic you know little about.

Multimedia sources can come in the form of videos, audio, images, etc.

Reading A Call Number

The Fitchburg State library uses the Library of Congress Classification System.


Call numbers begin with one or two letters and are organized alphabetically on the shelves. These letters describe the general subject of a book. (DS = History of Asia)

The second line is a number, which gives more detail on the specific subject matter of the item. This line is read numerically. (559.44 = Vietnamese Conflict)

The third line often represents the author's last name, and read as a decimal. (S = Smith)

The last line is the date of publication and is read chronologically. (1992)

Domain Names

The domain name of a site can give you a good idea of what content you might find there:

  • .com - "Commercial" A for-profit site selling something (sometimes information).
  • .net - "Network" Usually similar to .com
  • .org - "Organization" A non-profit, but likely has an agenda/opinion.
  • .edu - "Education" An educational institution, college, or university.
  • .gov - "Government" Sponsored by the US government.

The Deep Web

While more and more content is being digitized every day, there is still an enormous amount of information that is only accessible through what is known as the deep web, which is content that is not indexed by search engines. This includes:

  • Dynamic web pages that are generated from a search query
  • Sites that require registration and login (though you sometimes see "snippets" of this content - articles found through a Google Scholar search instead of the library databases often fall into this category)
  • Non-HTML content - text encoded in multimedia or in file formats not handled by search engines
  • Scripted content - Content generated by programs such as Flash and JavaScript

The best rule of thumb with web searches is to realize that even with the enormous amount of content available, not everything is available or accessible through the web. Web searches should always be one of several search strategies - library catalogs, databases, reference resources, and archives all hold information that may be the best on the topic, but Google will never find.

    Evaluating Sources: Apply the RADAR Test