OC logo

OC Libraries

Skip to Main Content

ENGL 101

Always follow your instructor's guidance regarding sources! If you have multiple options- use this chart to determine what information sources best suit your need. 

Choosing an Information Source

Source Best For Intended Audience Watch For/Consider

Newspapers

Newspapers are best for:
  • Daily local, national, and international news, events, and editorial coverage
  • Statistics and photojournalism
  • Record of events and quotes from experts, officials, and witnesses
Newspapers are intended for a general audience When using newspapers, you should watch for and consider that:
  • Authors usually not subject matter experts, though they may consult experts
  • Breaking stories are often fragmentary and conflicting, corrections are likely to follow
  • There is usually an editorial bias

Popular Magazines

Popular magazines are best for:
  • Current information
  • Short, easy to understand articles (including analysis, interviews, opinions, etc.)
  • Photographs and illustrations
Popular magazines are intended for a general audience, or those with a specific, recreational interest (e.g. sports, fashion, science, etc.) When using popular magazines, you should watch for and consider that:
  • Authors aren't usually experts
  • Sources may be cited informally
  • If no sources are cited, be cautious
  • There is typically an editorial bias

Professional/Trade
Magazines

Professional/Trade Magazines are best for:
  • Current information related to a profession or trade
  • Specialized articles related to a particular discipline or profession (including context and analysis)
Professional/Trade magazines are intended for members of a  professional organization or professionals/scholars with similar interests When using professional/trade magazines, you should watch for and consider that:
  • Articles vary between short and easy to lengthy and highly specific
  • Author expertise varies, pay attention to this
  • Sources may be cited informally
  • If no sources are cited, be cautious
  • Has characteristics in common with both popular magazines and scholarly journals
  • There may be bias

Scholarly/Academic
Journals

Scholarly/Academic Journals are best for:
  • Recent research on a topic
  • Focused, peer-reviewed articles written by experts
  • Data, statistics, charts, and graphs
  • Bibliographies of other sources
Scholarly/Academic Journals are intended for scholars, researchers, professionals, and university students in particular field When using Scholarly/Academic Journals, you should watch for and consider that:
  • Terminology and/or data may be difficult for novices to understand
  • There may be a bias
  • Not all research is created equal

Books

Books are best for:
  • Comprehensive overviews of a topic
  • Background and historical context
  • Bibliographies of other sources

Some books are intended for a general audience while others are intended for subject matter experts

When using books, you should watch for and consider that:
  • The author's level of expertise on a topic matters- determine why you should trust them
  • Some information is timeless, but often the date of publication matters
  • There is always almost bias, what is it, and how does it influence the writing?

Websites

Websites are best for:
  • Government data and information
  • Company information
  • Open Access resources
  • Quick answers to general info questions
  • News articles
While the vast majority of websites are intended for a general audience, some are intended for expert audiences, PubMed or PubChem for example.  When using websites for your studies, you should watch for and consider that:
  • If you cannot determine who is responsible for the information and why you trust them- don't trust them. 
  • Failing to accurately cite sources indicates you shouldn't trust a website.
  • There is almost always a bias, what is it, and how does it influence the information?

Adapted from the Undergraduate Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign resource, Select the Best Information Source