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WRIT 110 College Writing: Research Resources

Research Cycle

Resource Descriptions

Reference Resources – Found in Library Catalogs / Library Databases

  • Encyclopedias
  • Subject Specific Encyclopedias
  • Subject Specific Dictionaries
  • Databases of Reference Materials

Academic Books – Found in Library Catalogs / Library Databases

  • Often written by PhDs
  • Published by Academic or University Presses
  • Written to inform scholars, researchers, and students

Articles from Academic / Professional / Popular Journals – Found in Print / Library Databases & Academic / Peer Reviewed Journals

 Academic Journals

o   Written by expert/s in the field to add new knowledge to the field

o   Authors’ qualifications provided

o   Original Research or Original Thinking

o   Published by scholarly associations

o   Extensive bibliography

·         Professional / Trade Journals

o   Written by professionals for professionals

o   Author’s qualifications given

o   Application of research

o   Published by professional associations

o   Bibliography

·         Popular Journals / Magazines

o   Written by staff or free-lance writers - author's credentials may not be included

o   Written to inform the general public or entertain

o   Published by business enterprises

·         Websites - Found on Free Web

o   Located by Search Engines

o   Located by Directories

Research in the Disciplines

Academic disciplines conduct research in different ways. Note the types of primary, secondary, and tertiary (compilations of primary and secondary sources, i.e. almanac, encyclopedia) sources within each. 

Infographic courtesy of Notre Dame University.

Popular vs. Scholarly Sources

Scholarly research involves finding and using scholarly sources. Take a look at this video by John M. Pfau Library, CSUSB, to hear some of the differences between popular and scholarly sources.

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

Watch this short video from Hartness Library at Vermont Tech for information on primary and secondary sources.

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

Primary Sources provide direct or firsthand evidence about an event, object, person or work of art. They are generally created at the time of the events and people described. 

Examples: personal correspondence and diaries, works of art and literature, speeches and oral histories, audio and video recordings, photographs and posters, newspaper ads and stories, laws and legislative hearings, and census or demographic records

Secondary Sources are created some time after an event happened, and they contain information that has been interpreted, commented upon, analyzed or processed in such a way that it no longer conveys the freshness of the original. Secondary sources are often based on primary sources.

Examples: History textbooks, encyclopedias, interpretive journal articles, and book reviews

Comparison - The chart below shows examples of primary and secondary sources by discipline


Primary Source

Secondary Source


farming tools

treatise on innovative analysis of Neolithic artifacts


sketch book

conference proceedings on French Impressionists


Emancipation Proclamation (1863)

book on the anti-slavery struggle



biography of publisher Randolph Hearst


legislative hearing

law review article on anti-terrorism legislation



literary criticism on Desolation Angels


score of an opera

biography of the composer Mozart

Political Science

public opinion poll

newspaper article on campaign finance reform



editorial comment on Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech


voter registry

Ph.D. dissertation on Hispanic voting patterns

Courtesy of Indiana University