Sources of Information

Because information is found virtually everywhere, the challenge of research becomes finding scholarly sources that help answer your research questions. The nature and scope of your research question influence the types of information you may need. What is appropriate for your research will evolve as your research process changes, too.


Magazines, journals, and newspapers are called “periodicals” because they are published at regular intervals throughout the year. They typically fall under two categories: popular and scholarly. Libraries usually supply print copies of periodicals and increasingly subscribe to the online versions that library card holders can read in the convenience of their homes and offices.




Magazines publish articles on current events and on topics of interest. These articles are written by journalists for the general public. They are characterized by shorter articles that broadly summarize research and current issues, and contain many photographs and advertisements. Magazine articles are not rigorously evaluated like journal articles, and may be less reliable sources of information for research papers; however, they can still provide valuable information during your research process.


Use a Magazine
  • To find information or opinions about popular culture
  • For up-to-date information on current events
  • To read special-interest articles written for the general public




Journal articles are written by scholars in an academic or professional field. These in-depth articles usually cover a narrow field of research or specific topics within a subject, and contain case studies, research reports and a list of references. They are sponsored by an academic or professional organization and have few photographs or advertisements. An editorial board reviews the articles to decide whether they should be published.

Journals like Journal of Community PracticeStanford Social Innovation Review and Social Work provide invaluable research and information to social work students.


Use a Journal
  • When doing scholarly research on your topic
  • When you have a specific focus in your thesis
  • After you have background information and context from other sources
  • To find out what research has been done on your topic
  • To find bibliographies that lead to other relevant research




Newspapers provide articles each day about current events and are a good source for local information. You can find newspapers in print, in microfilm, and online; many news outlets post the latest news on their websites, and some even provide archived articles free of charge.


Use a Newspaper
  • To find current information about international, national and local events
  • For editorials, commentaries, expert or popular opinions


Print Sources



Books cover virtually any topic, fact or fiction. When conducting research, books serve as a great source for synthesizing background information on a specific topic.

Libraries organize and store their book collections on shelves called “stacks.” Many books are now available electronically through a library’s catalog.


Use a Book
  • When looking for a lot of information on a topic
  • To put your topic in context with other important issues
  • To find historical information
  • To find research summaries to support an argument




Encyclopedias contain factual, concise articles on many subjects. There are two types of encyclopedias—general and subject. General encyclopedias (like the Encyclopedia Americana) provide overviews on a wide variety of topics, and subject encyclopedias (like the Encyclopedia of Drugs, Alcohol & Addictive Behavior) contain entries focusing on one field of study. It’s better to use a subject-specific one when gathering information for a graduate-level assignment.


Use an encyclopedia
  • When beginning your research
  • If researching background information on a subject
  • When trying to identify key ideas, important dates or concepts
  • If you need ideas to refine your topic


looking for articles

Online Sources

Research Databases

Do you need to find articles on a particular subject? Research databases (also called periodical indexes or article indexes) include the citations, which give information on articles found in magazines, journals and newspapers.

Some research databases have abstracts or brief summaries of the articles. A few contain the full text or entire articles as they originally appeared in the periodical. Databases like Academic Search Complete and PsycINFO will also have “Find it” tools that help locate paper copies available to you in CWRU library collections or through OhioLINK.


Use a Research Database
  • When you need to find articles on your topic in magazines, journals or newspapers
  • If you don’t have a list of citations to consult on your subject


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