Virtual Help icon Virtual Help

  • Chat with library staff now
  • Contact your library
Skip to Main Content

Know your Resources: sub-module 2 of 5 of how to research

Your assignment will often indicate which types of resources you should use to support your work. Whether you search the web, or look for information through the library, it will help you to become familiar with the various types of resources available to you, and the benefits of using them.


Top Tips

  • Start with the assignment.Your assignment will often indicate the types of resources you should use to support your research. If it does not, clarify the expectations with your instructor.
  • Academic information resources.Academic resources are often published and/or reviewed by experts. Books/ebooks and scholarly journals are considered academic resources.
  • Popular information resources.Popular resources are published on social media, in magazines and newspapers, and found in various discussion forums. Popular resources often lead to discovery of more academic resources by way of links to research studies or mentions of book titles.
  • Evaluate everything you find.Look at information through a critical lens. Not everything will be suitable for your assignment and not everything published is entirely accurate. Use the Evaluation Checklists Opens in new window to help you with the critical analysis process.

Types of Resources

Information comes in many different formats. Some types of resources are academic, while others are popular and informal. Understanding the various types of content available to you will make it easier to plan your research. Click below to learn more about the various types of information sources.

From an information perspective, print books and ebooks are the same. The main difference between them is access. Print books are physical items, whereas ebooks are digital files that can be accessed from a variety of devices.

Book publication can take a long time. First, the author researches the topic, then they write a draft. The unpublished manuscript is then sent to a publisher to be edited, rewritten, and finally ... published.

This can be a lengthy process and explains why even if a book is released in 2022, it likely doesn’t contain up-to-the-minute information.

Why use books/ebooks? Books provide overviews, background, history, and introductions, as well as in-depth examinations of topics. They are useful when you are looking for specific information on a topic, or broader summaries of a subject area.

When researching a topic for your academic work, you may be asked to find “scholarly” / “academic” / “research” / “peer reviewed” journal articles.

These terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but not all articles are peer reviewed, and there are slight differences between these categories.

The main thing to note is that all of these types of articles are found in journals (as opposed to magazines, newspapers, or books).

Journals can be found through your library’s databases or sometimes on the web (if the journal is “open access” - meaning there is no pay wall before you read the articles).

Peer Reviewed Articles:

Some journals (categorized as “peer reviewed journals”) specifically publish articles that have been peer reviewed. In order for an article to be published in a peer reviewed journal, it has to go through a formal submission process which includes a peer review stage where experts ensure the accuracy, originality, significance, and other characteristics of the research before it is accepted for publication. These articles are highly regarded because the findings and results have been reviewed by experts in the field. Therefore, peer reviewed articles are viewed as credible and authoritative.

Research Articles:

In a research article, a researcher, or group of researchers, present findings of their research. These articles can also be considered academic and scholarly, and they may be peer-reviewed.

Academic / Scholarly Articles:

The terms academic and scholarly journal articles are used interchangeably, and can also sometimes be peer reviewed research articles, but can also be opinion pieces or book reviews if they are published in peer reviewed journals. When you search for a journal article, make sure to look at the title and content. If your instructor wants you to find a full-length research article, you don’t want to choose an opinion piece or book review.

Download the documents below to learn more about journal articles:

Trade magazines or trade journals publish articles aimed at people working in a particular field. The content focuses on information about working in the profession, trends, and news related to that field or trade, rather than academic research.

Consider this type of source to be more practical than the more theoretical and philosophical academic journals.

Examples of trade magazines / journals include:

Popular magazines publish articles that typically focus on information from pop culture. Articles are usually short, with a casual tone, and often have images embedded throughout.

Examples of popular magazines include:

In comparison, scholarly articles are long, black and white, and have statistical tables and graphs included as part of the research. Academic papers also have a long list of references available at the end of the paper.

While popular magazine articles are informative, and often mention academic research, they may not be the best choice to include as part of academic research. However, you may be able to track down the original study that the popular article mentions and use that as one of your sources.

Open access journals are free online academic publications made available to readers without subscription fees. Traditional publishers (e.g. Sage(opens in new window), Oxford University Press(opens in new window)) also make some of their content available through open access.

Examples of open access journals:

Open access articles can be found through Google, Google Scholar, or any other search engine, as well as through your college library.

When using open access literature for academic work, make sure to evaluate the content critically(opens in new window).

Grey literature refers to materials published non-commercially. These materials can be made available by the government, academia, not-for-profit, business and trade organizations, in print and digital formats. Examples of grey literature include:

  • Conference proceedings
  • Reports (e.g. statistical, technical, committee reports)
  • White papers
  • Flyers
  • Newsletters
  • Fact sheets
  • Theses and dissertations
  • Patents
  • Unpublished materials

Why use grey literature? It is sometimes more current than published research, and it is a great way to supplement your research, providing your project with a full picture viewpoint. You can find grey literature online, by searching Google (or another search engine), and/or Google Scholar.

Websites are the most prolific of online resources, and can be found using a search engine (like Google). Websites can serve a variety of purposes. Here are a few examples:

  • Individuals - showcase work in a portfolio, to communicate a message
  • For profit companies - promote their brand, or market their products
  • Non profit companies - promote their cause
  • Governments - educate citizens and publish government based research
  • Educational institutions - publish information related to programs and courses, as well as information relevant for the academic community
  • Others

When using information from websites for your academic work, make sure to evaluate the content critically(opens in new window).

Social media posts can be a great source of information. Social media can also add to information overload. In order to tap into the most relevant information, identify relevant #hashtags, @profiles, conversation threads, and blogs on your topic of interest.

Here are examples of the different types of social media platforms:

  • Facebook - Pages and Groups
  • Twitter - #hashtags and @profiles
  • Blogs - personal reflections, and sharing
  • Wikis - crowdsourced information
  • Discussion fora (forums) - conversations on a specific topic

Whenever you use content found on social media for your academic work, make sure to evaluate the content critically(opens in new window).