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Selecting Resources

Using a variety of resources in your research creates a fuller picture of your topic. Each type of resource has its uses. Select resources that will best help you in your research.

Books

Use books when you need summarized knowledge or an overview.  Books are helpful for historical topics and topics that span a length of time.  Books provide bibliographies and you can use those citations to find more research on your topic.

Books are not as useful when you have a very recent or narrow topic.  Books take years to research and publish so the most recent information will not be in books.

Articles

Use articles (from journals, magazines, newspapers, etc.) when you need very recent information. If you have a narrow or single topic to cover, articles are your best bet in finding relevant information.

Articles are not as useful for historical topics or topics spanning a long length of time.  Also sometimes an article can be too specific for your needs.

For academic research it is best to use peer-reviewed or scholarly journals see why here.

Find articles through databases or specific e-journals.

Websites

Websites are a great source of information for many topics especially government information, government statistics, and information on institutions or companies.  There is a lot of information on a lot of topics.

When using websites you must evaluate all information. You need to find out if the information being presented is accurate.  Please see "Evaluating Resources" for tips on getting the most credible information from the web.

Reference Resources

Reference sources, like dictionaries, encyclopedias and almanacs, are designed to contain fast facts and summaries. Reference resources are a great place to get started with understanding your topic. Many reference sources also contain bibliographies to help you find more resources about your topic.

Reference sources are tertiary sources so they should be used as starting places for research not as all of your research.  You research should be made of primary and secondary sources.

Media

Multimedia items, like video recordings, preserve information in a visual format. Use videos to watch interviews, documentaries and other educational videos on your topic. 

You should evaluate all information found in videos, especially videos found on the open web. ICC also has access to databases of streaming videos that have high-quality and credible information.

Deep Web

Many people rely on Google, Bing, Yahoo or another search engine to find the information they need.  However, MUCH of the information on the Internet is "invisible" or "deep" meaning that it cannot be found through search engines.  All of the thousands of ebooks, ejournals and online articles that the ICC library provides cannot be found through a search engine. To find ICC's collection of invisible web information search through the library databases here or the library catalog here.

This video explains how the deep web works.

 

Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Sources

Selecting sources also includes scope.  You will need to select resources that for the scope of your research.

Primary Sources

Primary sources hold information closest to the event, time or person.  This information has not been edited or interpreted. 

Examples:

  • diaries
  • memoirs
  • interviews
  • public records
  • government information
  • photographs and works of art
  • newspapers reporting at the time of the event

Secondary Sources

Secondary sources are one step removed from primary sources. The author examines and interprets primary resources to create the secondary resource. Secondary sources are more abundant and often easier to use than primary resources.

Examples:

  • books and textbooks
  • articles from scholarly journals
  • magazines
  • newspaper articles that analyze events
  • scientific reports
  • technical reports

Tertiary Sources

Tertiary sources are two steps removed from primary sources.  Tertiary sources use primary and secondary sources.

Examples:

  • directories
  • dictionaries
  • encyclopedia
  • almanacs

 

The video below further explains the differences.