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B.E.A.R. Camp Resources: Student-Athlete Center for Excellence: Types of Sources

A first stop guide for resources and skills introduced during the library and research skills session.

Scholarly, Popular, and Professional

You will be expected to use scholarly sources, but how do you know what is scholarly? It's usually not a website, but so much of the information we have is stored on or accessed on the web, how do you tell. The link below will give you some physical and visual cues to look for when deciding on the scholarly content of journal articles.


Evaluating Sources

As you look through and read the information (articles, books, websites, etc.) that you have gathered, it is important to critically evaluate what you find. Some information may seem to fit your criteria, but may not be appropriate upon evaluation. Here are some criteria by which to evaluate the information you find, and questions to ask in your evaluation:

  • Credibility - Who is the author of the material? What are the author's credentials? Is the author considered an expert in the field in which he or she writes? What is the author's reputation among his or her peers? What else has the author written? Who is the publisher of the material? Is that publisher well-known?

  • Bias - Is the information presented in an objective manner? Are all sides of the issue presented? If not, can you determine the side of the issue the author takes? Does the author acknowledge a bias? Is there any inflammatory language in the material? Does the author verify statements with facts and cite his or her sources? Does the publisher stand to benefit from any research published (i.e. a drug company funding a study on its own products)?

  • Accuracy - Does the author cite his or her sources? Does the material provide a description of its research methods? Does the information contradict other published information?

  • Currency - When was the material published? Does this work have a more current edition or update? Does your topic require more up-to-date information (i.e. is it a scientific or medical topic or about a current event? (Look at the timeline of published information to know which sources would be helpful for current events.)

  • Relevance - Does the information add to the topic you are writing about, or is it peripheral to your discussion? Is the information significant and valuable, or trival and common knowledge? Does the material provide references which will also be useful?

scales, photo by flickr user Esthr:

Photo by Esthr

What is a Primary Source?

Primary source: In scholarship, a document or record containing firsthand information or original data on a topic. Primary sources include original manuscripts, articles reporting original research or thought, diaries, memoirs, letters, journals, photographs, drawings, posters, film footage, sheet music, songs, interviews, government documents, public records, eyewitness accounts, newspaper clippings, etc.  Glossary of Library and Research Terms.

A book which is the edited text of a manuscript, diary, or other type of primary source is also a primary source.  Thus, the printed editions of The Parliament rolls of medieval England 1275 - 1504 is also a primary source even though it was published in 2005.

Secondary Sources

A secondary source is any item that examines or evaluates or expresses an educated opinion about a primary source, an idea, or another person's work.

News reports on the original protest marches, memoirs of participants in,  and interviews with people who participated in the Black Lives Matter movement are primary sources. So this book is a primary source:

  • Khan-Cullors, Patrisse, 1984, Asha Bandele, and Davis, Angela Y. 1944- (Angela Yvonne). When they Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir. St. Martin's Press, New York, 2018.

But this one is a secondary source:

  • Lebron, Christopher J. The Making of Black Lives Matter: A Brief History of an Idea. Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 2017.

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