4. Choosing Appropriate Resources

I. Check the requirements of your instructor:

Your instructor may require specific sources (e.g. a minimum of 3 scholarly journals, 1 book, and 1 newspaper) or may not accept particular sources, such as Wikipedia, Web resources, etc. Sometimes, your instructor may require that you use primary sources for your research. Make sure the sources you use meet your instructor's requirements.

II. Know the basic categories of sources:

Sources of information can be classified into two broad categories: primary and secondary sources.

Primary sources are first-hand information or original objects (such as autobiographies, diaries, letters, interviews, historical records & documents, eyewitness accounts, photos, etc.)

Secondary sources are sources that analyze, interpret, or summarize (such as biographies, critical analyses, literary criticism, interpretations, textbooks, books or articles written by non-participants, encyclopedias, etc.)

III. Know different types of sources

Information is everywhere. But you should use reliable sources for your papers. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of different sources can help you choose the most appropriate and useful material for your research. Here are some common sources:

Books & eBooks - covers any topic, good for comprehensive or historical information.

Journals - collection of articles written by scholars for academic users; covers very specific topics for scholarly research. Articles in peer-reviewed journals are of high quality as they were recommended by independent scholars.

Magazines - up-to-date information on general topics, information or opinions about popular culture and current events.

Newspapers - great source for current, international, national, and local events; includes experts and public opinions; but lacking in-depth analysis and studies.

Encyclopedias - general and subject encyclopedias are great for background information on a topic; subject encyclopedias have in-depth entries from the perspectives of a specific subject.

World Wide Web - covers any topic; contains multimedia formats (text, sound, images, videos); great for up-to-the-minute information on current events and quick search for information. Quality and reliability of information varies greatly. Information is unstable as it can be changed and pulled out without notice. For more reliable information, try to limit your search to Web sites from governments (.gov) and educational institutes (.edu),

Article Databases - collections of information in digital format, covers a good variety of subjects for research; includes full-text scholarly journals, magazines, newspapers, encyclopedias and even books. It is great for research purposes. (Subscribed by the library, need to log in for access.)

Other Sources - maps, census, government documents, pamphlets, brochures, court records, films, images, audio recordings, interviews, etc.

IV. Choose appropriate sources

Knowing the availability of different sources can help you decide which sources would be best for your research topic. Ask yourself what specific information you want and how much you need. Use the most promising sources for your search. For example:

Information NeedLibrary ResourcesWeb

Browsing and choosing topic ideas

SIRS Knowledge Source;
CQ Researcher Online;

FACTS on File; books

Web directories, e.g. Yahoo Directory

Background information of a topic
(e.g. bipolar disorder)

Gale Virtual Reference;

Britannica Online;

Books on the topic

Government or related organization Web sites

A recent event/incident


News Web site, e.g. CNN, Google News, etc.

Controversial issues; arguments and
development of an issue

Books on the topic;

Proquest Direct; EBSCOhost;

SIRS Knowledge Source;

CQ Researcher Online


related organization Web sites

scholarly discussion on a specific topic

Proquest Direct; EBSCOhost;


V. Use various sources and tools

Do not limit yourself to a specific kind of search tool (such as Google), or a specific kind of source (such as journal articles). Keep an open mind and explore different search tools and sources.

Keep in mind that you can also use other libraries besides the Butte College Library, such as Butte County Public Library, Chico State University Library, and other online resources from other libraries (Internet Public Libraries, Library of Congress, etc.) You can also borrow books and articles from other libraries through our Interlibrary Loan service.

VI. Start at the Library and ask a librarian

Start your research at the library! The Butte College Library maintains its print and digital collections to support student learning and research. You are more likely to find appropriate resources for your research paper from the library.

If you need any help finding appropriate material for your paper, ask a librarian.

Next Chapter: 5. Using Butte College Library Resources