Skip to main content

Research Help

Three Types of Resources

In general, there are three types of resources or sources of information: primary, secondary, and tertiary.  It is important to understand these types and to know what type is appropriate for your coursework prior to searching for information.

  1. Primary sources are original materials on which other research is based, including:
    • original written works – poems, diaries, court records, interviews, surveys, and original research/fieldwork, and
    • research published in scholarly/academic journals.
  2. Secondary sources are those that describe or analyze primary sources, including:
    • reference materials – dictionaries, encyclopedias, textbooks, and
    • books and articles that interpret, review, or sythesize original research/fieldwork.
  3. Tertiary sources are those used to organize and locate secondary and primary sources.
    • Indexes – provide citations that fully identify a work with information such as author, titles of a book, artile, and/or journal, publisher and publication date, volume and issue number and page numbers.
    • Abstracts – summarize the primary or secondary sources,
    • Databases – are online indexes that usually include abstracts for each primary or secondary resource, and may also include a digital copy of the resource.

~ Mary Woodley, CSUN Oviatt Library

Primary Vs. Secondary Sources

Scholarly vs. Popular Periodicals

Magazine or Journal?

When searching for articles, it's important to know what type of source, or periodical in which the articles are published. This is beacuse each type has its own purpose, intent, audience, etc. This guide lists criteria to help you identify scholarly journals, trade journals, and magazines. It is the first step in critically evaluating your source of information. Determining what makes a journal scholarly is not a clear-cut process, but there are many indicators which can help you.

Scholarly Journal

  • Reports original research or experimentation
  • Articles written by an expert in the field for other experts in the field
  • Articles use specialized jargon of the discipline
  • Articles undergo peer review process before acceptance for publication in order to assure creative content
  • Authors of articles always cite their sources in the form of footnotes or bibliographies

    Examples:

    Journal of Asian Studies

    Psychophysiology

    Social Research

    A note about "peer review." Peer review insures that the research reported in a journal's article is sound and of high quality. Sometimes the term "refereed" is used instead of peer review.

Trade Journal

  • Discusses practical information in industry
  • Contains news, product information, advertising, and trade articles
  • Contains information on current trends in technology
  • Articles usually written by experts in the field for other experts in the field
  • Articles use specialized jargon of the discipline
  • Useful to people in the trade field and to people seeking orientation to a vocation

    Examples:

    Advertising Age

    Independent Banker

    People Management

General Interest Magazines

  • Provides information in a general manner to a broad audience
  • Articles generally written by a member of the editorial staff or a freelance writer
  • Language of articles geared to any educated audience, no subject expertise assumed
  • Articles are often heavily illustrated, generally with photographs
  • No peer review process
  • Sources are sometimes cited, but more often there are no footnotes or bibliography

    Examples:

    Newsweek

    Popular Science

    Psychology Today

Popular Magazine

  • Articles are short and written in simple language with little depth to the content of these articles
  • The purpose is generally to entertain, not necessarily inform
  • Information published in popular magazines is often second-or third-hand
  • The original source of information contained in articles is obscure
  • Articles are written by staff members or freelance writers

    Examples:

    People

    Rolling Stone

    Working Woman

How do you find scholarly journals?

The McQuade Library has many online periodical databases which contain scholarly journal articles. Databases such as EBSCOhost and INFOTRAC allow you to limit your search to peer reviewed or refereed journals.

If you have found an article and are not sure if it is scholarly or not you can find out by consulting the following books located in the Reference Room:

LaGuardia, Cheryl, Magazines for Libraries, 12th ed., New Providence, NJ: R.R. Bowker. (Ref Z 6941 .K2 2003)

Ulrich's International Periodicals Directory, New York: Bowker, 2003. (Ref Z 6941 .U5 2003)

If you need assistance or require further information please ask a librarian.

The information contained in this brochure was adapted from Working with Faculty to Design Undergraduate Information Literacy Programs: A How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians by Rosemary Young, New York: Neal Schuman, 1999. (Updated 01/07/04)