Information Needs | Information
Types | Information Sources
Finding Aids | Citations
The best way to begin a search for information is to define your information
need. You should ask yourself, "What kind of information do I need?"
You may need an overview, a comprehensive search of research on a topic,
a quick reference to a fact, or an in-depth treatment. Once you decide
what kind of information you need, you can select the sources that are
likely to have the information you need.
Remember: to write a well-balanced paper you should review
several different types of information sources including books, periodicals (magazines, journals, and newspapers), and possibly
- Primary sources are firsthand accounts, original works,
or original research, published in either paper or electronic formats.
It may be a work of literature or art or an account of an event. Journal
articles that describe original research are primary sources.
- Secondary sources are sources that are often based on primary
sources, and include reviews, criticism, editorials, and analysis.
Journal articles that provide an analysis, interpretation, or evaluation
of research by others, such as a literature review, are secondary
sources. Encyclopedias and most books are secondary sources.
- Encyclopedias provide a general overview on a topic. They
are a good place to start your research. Encyclopedias can be found
in the reference sections of most public and academic libraries. Search
for general and subject-specific encyclopedias available at the NSU
- Monographs or books typically give a broad, thorough
treatment of a subject, usually from a retrospective point of view.
They can be located using Library
Catalogs including NovaCat,
the NSU Catalog.
- A periodical is a generic term which includes newspapers, popular magazines,
scholarly journals, and subject or professional publications. They
usually provide information that is focused and in-depth. Periodicals are important because
they are an excellent source for current information. Subjects that
are new or too specialized to be covered in books can often be found
in journals, magazines, and newspapers. Periodicals have a variety
of purposes and kinds of audiences. They may include news, opinion,
editorial comments, scholarly analysis and research. They range from
newsletters of trade organizations to in-depth journals published
by scientific societies and university presses. For further information,
see The Basics: Popular and Scholarly Communication and Distinguishing
- Scholarly journals are written for a specialized audience
in an objective manner and using technical jargon. Articles normally include
an abstract, a description of methodology, footnotes, and a bibliography.
- Popular journals are written for a general audience using
common terminology. Articles are easily understandable to the general
- Peer reviewed or refereed journals are scholarly
journals where the quality of the articles is maintained via a review
process by experts prior to publication. The articles submitted to
refereed or peer reviewed journals are examined by one or more people
with expertise in the field with which the article deals. The purpose
of this process is to give some assurance that the information in the article
is valid. Ulrich's Periodicals Directory (log in
using your last name and University ID) has a comprehensive alphabetical
list of refereed serials.
- Trade journals are serials that fall in between the categories
of magazines and journals, but their focus includes more product
and business information. Articles are written by staff or experts
in the field for members of a specific business or organization;
examples include Internet World, Advertising Age, Flying, Buttons,
Popular Mechanics, PC Magazine, etc.
- Government publications provide all types of information
ranging from broad, general information to focused, contemporary information.
- The Internet provides access to the full range of information
types that are stored in networked computers around the world.
Because of the overwhelming amount of information available today in a variety of different formats, you will need to identify methods of sorting through
these resources in a timely manner to efficiently locate the information
- Internet Search Engines help you search the Internet for
a specific topic. Using search engines such as Google to find information on the
Internet is quite easy; however, sorting through the vast numbers of results to find
resources that are useful is challenging. Sometimes, limiting searches to certain domains, such as ".edu" or ".gov" helps.
- Databases and Indexes with abstracts, unlike search engines,
most often contain citations to -- and in some cases the full text of -- articles published in periodicals. As such, most of these materials have gone through some type of editorial process for quality and organization and are displayed
in ways that make the information easier to use.
- Bibliographies are lists of citations or references pertaining
to a particular subject. Bibliographies are often found at the
end of a book or an article and contain the information needed to retrieve the sources used there. They
are sometimes titled "Works Cited."
You will need to understand how to interpret the citations
you find in databases and bibliographies and how to cite sources in your
own bibliographies. Learn
more about citations.