Primary Sources provide first-hand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic under investigation. They are created by witnesses or recorders who experienced the events or conditions being documented at the time or after the event. Primary sources include autobiographies, memoirs, oral histories. legislative documents, court cases, case studies, longitudnal and other studies.
Secondary Sources are commentary or analysis of Primary Sources. Examples include biographies, critical essays on primary works, commentary on about primary sources including interpretations, persuasive articles, surveys and reference resources.
Popular magazines and newspapers: Written for the general public. These publications are written for informaiton and/or entertainment purposes. They are normally for-profit, and include advertising. They are published frequently, daily for newspapers, and weekly or monthly or bi-monthly for magazines.
Scholarly journals: Written by scholars or academics for scholars and those working on academic research. Articles must be approved by an editorial board of peer reviewers. Because a great deal of time is involved in their writing and production, journals are published less frequesntly, usually quarterly or even annually.
Trade publications: These may be magazines or journals, and are written for professionals in a particular field. Some are research related, most are not.
Ina New York Times article published on April 7, 2013, GINA KOLATA wites about the "parallel world of pseudo-academia" where for profit and even erroneous journal type works are published by organizations that either have a name that sounds like a well known institution or organization, or purport to be scholarly endeavors. Kolata writes, "But some researchers are now raising the alarm about what they see as the proliferation of online journals that will print seemingly anything for a fee. They warn that nonexperts doing online research will have trouble distinguishing credible research from junk."
How does the unknowing novice at research deal with this dilemma? Well one way is to use the online databases we provide through organizations such as EbscoHost and Thomson Gale. These are vetted for accuracy and authority, and hopefully they are on top of this issue. Another way is to consult an excellent list of “predatory open-access journals” created by Jeffrey Beall;, a research librarian at the University of Colorado in Denver. These are enumerated in his own blacklist .
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The quality of your research depends upon the quality of your sources. Choosing the best sources is key to any research endeavor. With such an array of information available to you, this process can be daunting. The type of source you choose should always match your exact needs, for instance, if your teacher asks for a peer reviewed article, then you should seek out journal articles instead of magazines or newspapers.
Every resource you examine should be appraised carefully. Using a criteria for evaluating materials is very helpful in determining what you will select. Thinking critically about your selections is also essential. Keep in mind that just because a resource is in the library, doesn’t make it the best fit for your research needs. Always review the assignment to determine exactly what is required of you. If you are researching an independent project, then the following criteria will also be helpful.