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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)?

    What are peer-reviewed sources?

    Peer-reviewed sources are original research projects that scientists and researchers share and publish. These sources go through an extensive evaluation process by:

    1. Fellow subject matter experts; and
    2. Journal editors

    before they are published. You can access peer-reviewed sources through academic databases like EBSCOhost, JSTOR, and ProQuest.

    Google Scholar is another place to find peer-reviewed sources

    Peer-reviewed sources include, but aren't limited to:

    • Academic journal articles
    • eBooks
    • Book chapters

    EBSCOhost and ProQuest each have a special search filter for scholarly (peer-reviewed) articles. 

    However, JSTOR contains, like, 99% peer-reviewed sources, so there is no special search filter in this database.

    Is there a difference between scholarly and peer-reviewed sources? Yes! It is important to understand the difference between these two types of sources. Students can easily misinterpret a source as scholarly when it really is not. Check out the scholarly vs popular sources table below to learn what makes them different.

    When is it appropriate to use popular sources? That depends on your assignment and you instructor. Popular sources may be appropriate if your assignment topic is on a particular celebrity, movie, book, or other piece of popular culture. Always check with your instructor before using popular sources in your assignments!

    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 this guide:

    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.

    Open Access Journals - a newer peer-reviewed source

    Open access journals (OAJs) are journals that are freely available on the internet. You don't need a special membership or subscription to access the research available in them. OAJs are usually peer-reviewed, so they are also a great spot to find peer-reviewed sources

    The Directory of Open Access Journals is a free, online database available to connect you with over 300 open access journals from around the world and in many subjects.

    Here are some examples of subject-specific open access journals that you can use for your research!

    Need one in a subject not listed here? Email the Library for assistance!

    CRAAPO Test

    Need help remembering what to look for? Think CRAAPO! CRAAPO is an acronym and by breaking it down, you'll see how you can find relevant resources for your needs every time.

    C Currency How recent was the information published?
    Has it been updated or revised recently?
    Are the links functional?
    R Relevancy Is the content related to your topic?
    Is it at an appropriate reading level?
    Who is the audience?
    Would you be comfortable using this source?
    A Authority Who is the author, publisher, source, and/or sponsor?
    What are author's credentials?
    Can you contact someone about the source?
    What does the URL reveal (.org, .gov, .edu, .com, .net, etc.)?
    A Accuracy
    Are there any spelling or grammar errors?
    Is it unbiased or free of emotion?
    Is there any supporting evidence (e.g., citations)?
    Can you verify the information from another source?
    Has it been reviewed or refereed?
    P Purpose What is the purpose of the source (teach, inform, entertain, persuade, etc.)?
    Are the source's intentions clear?
    Can you tell if the source is a fact, an opinion, or propaganda?
    Are there any ideological, cultural, political, institutional, religious, or personal biases?
    Is the point of view objective and impartial?
    O Objectivity

    Is your source factual?

    Is it from a reputable source?

    Does it have supportive resources (links, bibliographies, etc.) that help support what is being presented?

    Citation: 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