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English 101: Types of Information

A research guide for English 101 students

Types of Information

Before you begin actively researching your topic, you will need to think about the types of sources that are available. Information comes to us from many sources - books, magazines, journals, newspapers, radio, television, websites, multimedia sources, etc... The type(s) of information you need will depend on the nature of your potential topic.

Source Types

Understanding source types helps you determine what you need for your research.  Below is a list of commonly used resources with brief descriptions.


Contain articles about current events usually published daily. Since there is at least one in every city, newspapers are great sources for local information. Newspapers also provide primary reporting.

  • Examples of when to use: 
    • to locate up to date information about a current event
    • to find local information
    • to read editorials, commentaries, or expert/popular opinions

Popular and Trade Magazines

A collection of articles and images about a variety of popular topics and current events. Articles are written by journalists for the general population.

  • Examples of when to use:
    • to find information /opinions about popular topics or current events
    • to learn more about a topic if you are not an expert in the field


Scholarly/Peer-Reviewed Articles

A collection of articles written by scholars or experts in the field. Scholarly articles, also called academic articles, can be found using databases and cover a wide range of topics and can either be original research or analysis of an issue or topic.

  • Examples of when to use:
    • to locate original research
    • to find specific studies within a field of research
    • to locate literature reviews on a topic


Provide in-depth coverage of a subject. Often include historical or contextual information regarding a topic.

  • Examples of when to use:
    • to put a topic in context
    • to learn the history of a topic
    • to find in-depth analysis or summaries of a topic

Reference Materials

Materials such as dictionaries, encyclopedias and handbooks are considered reference materials. Reference materials can be found both in print and online.

  • Examples of when to use: 
    • to learn more about a topic (background research)
    • to locate key terminology, people, or dates

Websites (Online Web)

Websites provide access to information of all kinds. Virtually all information from a search engine (such as Google) comes from a website. While most publication, material, and format types are accessible online, the quality, coverage, and purpose of these sources will vary significantly. One of the benefits to the online web is its ability to disseminate information on a topic in a short about of time. There can very very valuable information because of the wide rage of sources, however, extra time needs to be taken to evaluate the credibility and reliability of the information.

  • Examples of when to use:
    • To find current information.
    • To find both expert and popular opinions
    • To find information from all levels of government - federal to local
    • When you have plenty of time to evaluate the source


*Adapted from Brookens Library from the University of Illinois Springfield.


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