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LESLIE J. SAVAGE LIBRARY

Leslie J. Savage Library: Evaluating Resources

EVALUATING RESOURCES

Types of Information Sources

Information Timeline

Sources Television, Web, Radio
Characteristics Basic facts. Information is shared during the event or immediately following the event. Details may be sparse, biased, and/or unsubstantiated. Updates and corrections to information are made in subsequent posts (often hours later or the next day).
Type of Information General
Author Journalists (not specialists in the field of study); General public
Audience General public
Locating Tools Web search engines, social networks
Examples Twitter, Facebook, various blogs, KBUT Community Radio, local news programs on ABC, NBC, CBS, etc.

 

Sources Newspapers, television, radio, web
Characteristics General facts. Details may still be sparse, biased, and/or unsubstantiated. May include more geographical and background information. Also tends to include a few more details about the identities of key people and historical relevance. More accurate than previous reports because details have begun to be verified.
Type of Information Varies. Some articles include analysis, statistics, photographs, editorials, and opinions.
Author Journalists (not specialists in the field of study)
Audience General public
Locating Tools Web search engines, newspapers, periodical databases
Examples New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, http://abcnews.go.com/, NPR, etc.

 

Sources Popular and mass market magazines
Characteristics General facts. Details may still be sparse, biased, and/or unsubstantiated. May include more geographical and background information. Also tends to include more details about the identities of key people and historical relevance. More accurate than previous reports because details have begun to be verified.
Type of Information General, editorial, opinions, statistics, photographs, still in reporting (not deep investigation/refection) stage.
Author Journalists (not specialists in the field of study)
Audience General public to the knowledgeable layperson
Locating Tools Web search engines, print magazines, periodical databases
Examples Time, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, The Nation, National Review, etc.

 

Sources Trade magazines and scholarly journals
Characteristics Articles written and reviewed by experts in a field. Often presents new research in the area.
Type of Information Research results, detailed and theoretical discussion. Bibliography included.
Author Specialists and scholars in the field
Audience Scholars, specialists, students
Locating Tools General and subject-specific databases
Examples Music Educators Journal, Journal of Environmental Engineering, Journal of Chemical Education, etc.

 

Sources Scholarly journals, books, conference proceedings. Reference sources such as encyclopedias.
Characteristics Includes deep research, hindsight, secondary analysis, and very specific details of the events, people, and places.
Type of Information In-depth coverage of a topic, edited compilations of scholarly articles relating to a topic. Bibliography included.
Author Specialists and scholars in the field
Audience General public, scholars, specialists, students
Locating Tools Library catalog, general and subject-specific databases, reference sources
Examples Encyclopedia Britannica, published conference proceedings, various books, Journal of Terrorism Research, Engineering Journal, etc.
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Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources

Primary Sources

Description: Examples:
  • First-hand accounts of events.
  • Original ideas.
  • Empirical observations or research.
  • Diaries
  • Interviews
  • Letters
  • Original works of art
  • Photographs
  • Speeches
  • Works of literature

 

Secondary Sources

Description: Examples:
  • Analyze and interpret historical events or creative works.
  • Provides commentary on a primary source.
  • Offers an interpretation of information found in primary sources.
  • Biographies
  • Dissertations
  • Journal articles
  • Monographs
  • Indexes, abstracts, bibliographies (used to locate a secondary source)

 

Tertiary Sources

Description: Examples:
  • Presents summaries or condensed versions of primary and secondary sources.
  • Rarely contains any original material.
  • Dictionaries
  • Encyclopedias
  • Handbooks

Samples

Subject Primary Secondary Tertiary
Art Monet's "Port-Goulphar, Belle-Île" painting Critical review of the painting Encyclopedia article about Monet
Literature Jane Eyre novel Article about portrayal of disability in Brontë's novels Companion to the Victorian Novel
Music O mie porpore più belle, RV 685 Article studying the tonal disjunction between arias and recitatives Reference article from Grove Music Online about Italian cantatas

This page is modified from Virginia Tech's Library Website, Retrieved December 20, 2016. Link updated May 29, 2018.

Primary Sources

Description: Examples:
  • First-hand accounts of events.
  • Original ideas.
  • Empirical observations or research.
  • Interviews
  • Raw data
  • Newspaper reports about events
  • Notes (i.e. from a psychologist)

 

Secondary Sources

Description: Examples:
  • Analyze and interpret conditions or events.
  • Provides commentary on a primary source.
  • Offers an interpretation of information found in primary sources.
  • Dissertations
  • Journal articles
  • Monographs
  • News commentaries
  • Magazine articles

 

Tertiary Sources

Description: Examples:
  • Presents summaries or condensed versions of primary and secondary sources.
  • Rarely contains any original material.
  • Dictionaries
  • Encyclopedias
  • Handbooks

Samples

Subject Primary Secondary Tertiary
Anthropology Interview with member of the Hopi tribe Book about Hopi land disputes Encyclopedia of Native American tribes
Psychology Clinical case notes Article about treatments for social anxiety disorder Handbook of Psychology
History Civil War diary Article about the Battle of Antietam Chronological Encyclopedia of the Civil War
Political Science Geneva Conventions Article about prisoners of war List of treaties
       

This page is modified from Virginia Tech's Library Website, Retrieved December 20, 2016. Link updated May 29, 2018.

Primary Sources

Description: Examples:
  • Scientists present results of research.
  • Original documents.
  • First-hand accounts.
  • Conference proceedings
  • Interviews
  • Journals
  • Lab notebooks
  • Patents
  • Preprints
  • Technical reports
  • Theses and dissertations

 

Secondary Sources

Description: Examples:
  • Analyze and interpret scientific research.
  • Compare various ideas & theories.
  • Summary of existing state of knowledge.
  • Monographs
  • Reviews
  • Textbooks
  • Treatises

 

Tertiary Sources

Description: Examples:
  • Presents summaries or condensed versions of primary and secondary sources.
  • Rarely contains any original material.
  • Dictionaries
  • Encyclopedias
  • Handbooks
  • Tables
  • Compilations

Samples

Subject Primary Secondary Tertiary
Environmental Science Case study on sustainable energy Book on sustainable practices in communities Encyclopedia article about alternative energy
Chemistry Chemical patent Book on chemical reactions Dictionary of chemistry
Geology Research study on geology and sediment properties Book on geology along the Gold Rush trail Encyclopedia of geology
Biology Research study about chemotherapy and lymph node dissection Book on the biology of plants Handbook of the biology of aging
Mathematics Euclid's Elements Book about Euclid's life & work Handbook of Mathematics

This page is modified from Virginia Tech's Library Website, Retrieved December 20, 2016. Link updated May 29, 2018.

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Types of Periodicals

  Magazine Academic Journal Trade Journal*
Audience General public Scholars, researchers, students Professionals in the field
References Rare Required Occasionally
Author Journalist Scholar in the field Professional in the field
Review policy Edited for format & style by the magazine's editorial staff Peer-reviewed - evaluated by experts in the field for content, format & style

Evaluated by editorial staff, who may be experts in the field, for format & style

*Some trade journals are also peer-reviewed

Appearance Colorful, glossy, many photographs & advertisements Lengthy articles, often including charts & graphs, with few or no advertisements Advertisements are specific to the trade, contains colorful photographs, glossy
Content An overview of a topic, personal narratives, general information, interviews, goal is to entertain or inform the general public In-depth, primary accounts of original findings, specific information, scholarly communication Current news, trends, products in a specific industry, practical information for professionals in the field
Language Easily understandable to most readers Specialized terminology or jargon of the field Specialized terminology or jargon of the field, but not as technical as an academic journal
Example Article Carla Hayden "Good Fences Make Good Neighbors"... The Road to Mastery

Information Literacy Librarian

Renée Barney's picture
Renée Barney
Contact:
Library 210
970-943-2898
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