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Get Started With Research

Use this guide to become a more skillful researcher. Learn how to develop research questions, choose credible sources, evaluate your sources, cite them correctly, and avoid plagiarism

Choose the Right Source

By choosing the right source for your assignment you ensure that you are searching in the right place for relevant, reliable information that meets your instructor's expectations and fulfills your assignment requirements. This 4-minute video entitled, Selecting Sources, from the University of Texas, Arlington Libraries teaches you how to select the right sources for your assignment.

Selecting Sources video

Primary & Secondary Information

For research projects you will be using two basic types of information: Primary and Secondary. Your instructor will usually tell you what types of information he or she expects you to use for your research.What's the difference between these types?

Primary (Think of this as Firsthand):

Primary information is comprised of original materials that were created first hand. This type of information is from the time period involved and has not been filtered through interpretation. Examples are:

  • Original Research (reported in journals & dissertations)
  • Diaries
  • Interviews (legal proceedings, personal, telephone, email)
  • Letters
  • Original Documents (i.e. birth certificate or a trial transcript)
  • Patents
  • Photographs
  • Proceedings of Meetings, Conferences and Symposia
  • Survey Research (such as market surveys and public opinion polls)
  • Works of Literature

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secondary sourcesSecondary (Think of this as Second Hand):

Secondary information is made up of accounts written after the fact with the benefit of hindsight. Therefore, secondary information interprets and evaluates primary information. Examples are:

  • Biographies
  • Books
  • Commentaries
  • Dissertations
  • Indexes, Abstracts, Bibliographies (used to locate primary & secondary sources)
  • Journal Articles

Popular, Substantive, and Scholarly Sources

Unless otherwise instructed by your teacher, you'll probably want to use a variety sources to help you gain a complete understanding of your topic. Sources of information generally fall within three categories.These categories are  Popular, Substantive, and Scholarly (or Peer Reviewed). To use them skillfully you need to be able to identify them and understand their differences.

Picture of popular sources

Popular material:

  • Is created by journalists, staff writers or freelance writers, and, sometimes, by enthusiasts.
  • This type of information is aimed at the general public.
  • It usually provides a broad overview of topics a general readership will find entertaining.
  • If you use popular material for academic work you'll need to be sure to supplement it with articles from scholarly and substantive sources.
Picture of substantive sources

Substantive material:

  • Is produced by scholars or credentialed journalists and is geared toward an educated audience.
  • It provides credible information of relevance to an educated and concerned public.
  • Substantive information is a great choice for community college students, because it is both credible and accessible.
Picture of scholarly sources

Scholarly material:

  • Is produced by scholars/experts whose credentials can be evaluated.
  • Aimed at other scholars, it disseminates specialized and discipline-specific information, often reporting on original research and experimentation.
  • Scholarly information is a great choice for college students, though it can be challenging to read because of its scholarly language.
  • Scholarly sources are often called academic or peer-reviewed.

 

Watch the brief video below for more information:

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