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Getting Started with Research @ Reed Library: Types of Sources

Types of Sources

So many books, so little time...

When you search with the ReedSearch tool on the library's homepage, you are searching through a variety of sources. This makes it a good place to search for books in our collection, both available physically and online. 

There are several ways to limit your results and remove unnecessary material from the list.

You can specifically search the Reed Library Catalog for materials. This will give you results for items we currently own.


Selecting available online will limit your results to material available online.


You can also refine by material type. If you refine by "Available online" and "Books," your results will only show books available online.


While ReedSearch does a pretty good job searching through all of our available resources, it can also be helpful to search directly in one of our eBook databases:

Icon of a journal article

Different types of publications serve different purposes and for different audiences. When we talk about journal and magazine articles, we can usually divide these publications into three broad categories: scholarlypopular, and trade.

  Scholarly Popular Trade/Industry
Written for Other scholars and researchers in the field. Authors expect readers to understand specialized language. The tone of the writing is formal.

A general audience. Often written to entertain as well as to inform. The authors explain terms the reader might not be familiar with. The tone is usually informal.

People who work in the field. Written to offer practical information, news, etc. Authors expect readers to understand specialized language.
Written by

Authorities in the field, such as professors or researchers. An article will oftentimes have several authors.

Journalists, staff writers, or freelance writers. Usually, the article only has a single author. Sometimes no author is listed. Specialists in the field. Usually, the article only has a single author. Sometimes no author is listed.
Frequency Quarterly or semi-annually Weekly/monthly Weekly/monthly
Sources cited Sources are cited in a formal style in endnotes, footnotes, or bibliographies. Sources may be mentioned, but are unlikely to be cited formally. Sources may be mentioned, but are unlikely to be cited formally.
Appearance Usually has formal, labeled sections for the abstract, conclusions, bibliography, etc. Advertisements are rare. If images are included, they are usually charts, graphs, or tables. No abstract or other formal sections. Numerous advertisements for a variety of products will be found. Images are large and colorful in a PDF file; in an HTML version, there will be placeholders like [color photo]. Unlikely to have formal sections. Advertisements are usually for products geared toward the specific industry. Other images used are intended to illustrate concepts rather than decorate the page.
Peer review Yes No No
Examples from Reed Library 

ScienceReviews of Modern PhysicsAmerican Anthropologist, Journal of Teacher Education

TIME Magazine, National Geographic, Sports Illustrated, Psychology Today Accounting Today, Billboard, American Libraries, Trade Finance

One very important distinction between scholarly journals and other types of publications is the peer-review process.

Icon of a magazine article

A database will often indicate whether or not a journal is peer-reviewed or scholarly. If this information is not clear to you, you can also look it up in Ulrichsweb, a helpful directory with detailed information on numerous periodicals.

There are many tools and resources you can use to help you find different types of articles. 

Already know the journal? Use the E-Journal Portal to search by title, subject, or ISSN.

Reed Library has hundreds of databases that provide access to thousands of journals. You can look through our list of databases by subject in our full database list. You can also visit our Research Guides for additional guidance.

If you already have some of the citation information (article title, author(s), etc.), you can use the Citation Linker tool to help you find the article. If you are searching in ReedSearch, there are several helpful ways to refine your results.  To refine your results to peer-reviewed, select peer-reviewed journals under availability:



You can also refine your results to specific material types:


Please reach out to a librarian if you have any questions or need research assistance.
Reed Library provides 24/7 chat services to help you through this process. 

Icon of a newspaper
There are several ways to find Newspaper articles through Reed Library. 

The links listed below should take you directly to a specific newspaper database. If you are off-campus you will need to log in with your eServices username and password.

Newspaper Databases:

see this full list of databases to try...

You can also use ReedSearch to find newspaper articles by selecting "Newspaper Articles" under the material type on the left side of the page:




New York Times



Additionally, all Fredonia students, faculty and staff can sign up for a digital version of the New York Times. This provides you with full access to and the phone app. 

For additional information, visit the Professional Development Center's New York Times in Education page.

Icon of a computer monitorWhile Internet sources are not considered scholarly, it will most likely be where you start gathering initial information about your topic. Blogs, and even Tweets, can be invaluable in helping you stay informed about conversations surrounding your research area. These channels can also help direct you to scholarly information that would be appropriate to use in your research.

Again, not everything on the Internet is appropriate to use as a source in your research. For additional guidance on evaluating sources, review this Evaluating Sources page, or reach out to a librarian for further assistance.

Domain Suffix Definition

A domain suffix is the end portion of a domain name. This is often referred to as a "top level domain" or TLD. Each domain suffix defines the type of website represented by the domain name. This should be one of the first points of evaluation as you are looking at websites.

Some common domain suffixes are described in the chart below but there are numerous other domain suffixes out there. An organization, ICANN, coordinates the Internet's naming system, including domain suffixes. 

Common Domain Suffixes

Icon with the text ".com" Icon with the text ".gov" undefined Icon text says ".org" undefined
Commercial U.S. Government Educational Institution Organization Network

This is a company-
owned site. 
Commercial sites can be a challenge to evaluate because companies may include educational information on portions of their sites. You will need to determine whether or not a particular site's information outweighs its commercial/advertising agenda.

If you come across a site with this domain, then you're viewing a federal government site. All branches of the United States federal government use this domain. Information such as Census statistics, Congressional hearings, and Supreme Court rulings would be included in sites with this domain. The information is considered to be from a credible source.

Sites using this domain name are schools ranging from kindergarten to higher education. If you take a look at your school's URL you'll notice that it ends with the domain .edu. Information from sites within this domain must be examined very carefully. If it is from a department or research center at an educational institution, it can generally be taken as credible. However, students' personal Web sites are not usually monitored by the school even though they are on the school's server and use the .edu domain. Traditionally a non-profit organization. Organizations such as the American Red Cross or PBS (Public Broadcasting System) use this domain suffix. Generally, the information in these types of sites is credible and unbiased, but there are examples of organizations that strongly advocate specific points of view over others, such as the National Right to Life Committee and Planned Parenthood. You want to give this domain scrutiny. Some commercial interests might be the ultimate sponsors of a site with this suffix. You might find any kind of site under this domain suffix. It acts as a catch-all for sites that don't fit into any of the preceding domain suffixes. Information from these sites should be given careful scrutiny.
Terms of Use: The text from this section is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. It is attributed to the University of South Carolina Upstate Library, and the original version can be found here.

Additionally, each country has a unique domain suffix used.
Examples: Australia - .au | Canada - .ca | China - .cn​ 
Visit this page for a full list of country top level domains.

Icon of diaries

Primary sources are sources produced during the time period being studied and/or provide a first-hand account. Some examples of primary sources include speeches, diaries, letters, photographs, interviews, autobiographies, original research, data sets, relics or artifacts, etc. Hey! Did you know we have primary sources in our Special Collections & Archives

To watch a video overview about primary sources, log in to your e-Services account:


Secondary sources are books, periodicals, web sources, etc. that are written using information gathered from primary sources. Many of the books in Reed Library's collection, for example, are secondary sources. 

Log in to your e-Services account to watch a video overview of secondary sources:

undefinedTertiary sources, which are also sometimes referred to as reference works, are publications that summarize the information found in primary and secondary sources. This helps provide background on a topic, idea, or event. Encyclopedias, dictionaries, and textbooks are good examples of tertiary sources.

Log in to your e-Services account to watch a video overview of tertiary sources:

Choosing a Database

The database you should select will depend on your information need. Recognizing the different types of sources available will help you determine which database is most appropriate for you. 

Log in to your e-Services account to learn more about choosing a database:

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