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  • Research Help Guide: 4. Sources

    Use this guide to help you learn about research and perform research yourself for both academic and leisurely activities.

    Acceptable sources

    Academic assignments may require a certain type(s) of source(s).  Always double check before you actually begin your research.

    • Can you use academic/scholarly or popular? Do the sources have to be peer-reviewed? (See the information below)
    • Do you need a primary source? (See the information below)
    • Can you use print and electronic sources, or are you restrict to one type?
    • News & Media - can you use a traditional news source (i.e. TV station article link) or can you use a newer form of news source (i.e. blog posts or Tweets)?

    Scholarly Vs Popular Sources

    Scholarly Journals

    "Academic" or "Research"

    Popular Newspaper & Magazines

    "General" or "Journalistic"

    Authors are named and usually affiliated with an institution. Authors are potentially anonymous.
    Authors are subject matter experts. Authors are journalists.
    Articles are peer-reviewed. Articles are not peer-reviewed.
    Citation lists are lengthy and extensive. Citation lists are little to non-existent.
    Advertisements are limited. Advertisements are everywhere.
    Articles are lengthy and very detailed. Articles are shorter and focus on general points.
    Issues are published on a less frequent basis (semi-annually, quarterly, monthly). Issues are published frequently (daily, weekly, monthly).
    Target audiences are professionals, academics, and students. Target audiences are the general public.
    Titles typically include words like bulletin, journal, or review. Titles do not typically include words like  bulletin, journal, or review.
    Except "The Wall Street Journal," which is not a scholarly publication.


    Primary Sources

    What are primary sources?

    Primary sources are first-hand accounts. These sources did directly witness what happened or participate in an event. For example, witnesses create original documents like the Constitution or watched events like the Lindsey football team winning their first championship. 

    Check out the library's in-house archives and special collections department for primary sources for materials dating back to the 1860s!

    What are secondary sources?

    Secondary sources are second-hand accounts. These sources did not directly witness what happened or participate in an event. For example, visitors to the Corvette Museum learn about the sinkhole that happened there in 2014. They share their knowledge with friends and family because they learned about it *from a primary source*, which is the museum.

    For additional information, check out these online guides:

    The Library has two departments with resources available that are considered primary sources.

    1) Archives & Special Collections

    2) Government Documents

    Katie Murrell Library is a congressionally designated depository for U.S. Government documents. 

    For assistance with Government Documents in the library, contact Amelia Thomas at or click this link for the Government Documents LibGuide, which has more information on this department.

    CRAAP Test

    Let's make sure that those sources you use for your assignments are reliable and credible. There are many sources out there claiming to the real information when, really, they aren't. To make sure they are not "crappy," let's apply the CRAAP test!

    • Currency
      When is the publication date? Do the links work? Has the source been updated at all and, if so, when?
    • Relevance
      Who is the audience? Does the information relate to your topic? Have you evaluated other sources first to double-check this information? Is the intended audience of an appropriate age?
    • Authority
      Who is the author? Are they credible in their field? Who is the publisher / sponsor / source? Is there any contact information? What does the main URL show?
    • Accuracy
      Are there any spelling / grammar errors? Is it unbiased or free of emotion? Is there evidence to support the information? Where does the it come from? Did anyone or an organization review it?
    • Purpose
      What is its purpose or objective? Are the messages clear? Are there any biases? Does it appear to be a fact, an opinion, or other?

    No one should ever should CRAAP-y information in any capacity. Remember this acronym and you will always find good stuff!


    Source: Blakeslee, Sarah (2004) "The CRAAP Test," LOEX Quarterly: Vol. 31 : No. 3 , Article 4. Available at:

    Scholarly Vs Popular

    Scholarly books



    Example Primary Sources

    Woman journaling


    Photographer's camera


    iPhone recording video


    US constitution