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Research Paper - How to Guide: Information Needs/Wants

Information Needs/Wants


Types of Information

Instructors usually want to see that you have consulted a variety of information sources to do your research. Often they give specific instructions regarding what kind of sources they want you to use.  If they require academic
or scholarly sources, make sure you know what that means!  

The basic sources of information are outlined below.





Articles from newspapers, magazines and journals, are focused and specific.

Newspaper and Magazine Articles:

  • written for the general public
  • authors are usually journalists
  • topics of popular and current interest
  • fact-checked in editorial process

Journal Articles:

  • scholarly and academic
  • written by academics and researchers working in a particular field of study
  • use specialized vocabulary and assume prior knowledge of topic
  • report research findings and critical analysis of a topic
  • can be "peer reviewed" - editorial process where a panel of other academics/researchers review the content to ensure it is worthy of publication

For more information regarding the difference between Scholarly or Peer Reviewed Journals CLICK HERE.  You can also watch the "What is a Scholarly Journal" video below.

Encyclopedias & Dictionaries

Encyclopedias & Dictionaries:

  • also called reference sources
  • Douglas College Library has many available online ( click the image to see what we have)
  • general and specialized - will provide you with definitions and background information, both basic and in-depth
  • general reference sources include titles like The World Book and the Canadian Oxford Dictionary
  • subject specific (specialized) reference sources will provide more detailed coverage than general reference sources
  • specialized reference sources include titles like the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada and the Encyclopedia of Anthropology


What about Wikipedia?

You can consult Wikipedia, but it is not an authoritative source.  Any information found there must be verified in another authoritative source that you can include in your works cited list.

Books and e-books

Books and eBooks

  • in-depth and comprehensive coverage of a topic
  • Douglas College has both print and electronic book collections - e-books can be accessed from anywhere 24/7!
  • can be an entire book by one author, or a collection (anthology) of articles/essays by several authors
  • sometimes you need only consult a single chapter or section
  • those published by universities or scholarly publishers have a more rigorous editorial process than a "popular" book publisher.





  • some are great, some are dreadful
  • often the online equivalent of a print
    or formerly print source
  • require careful examination to determine
    their reliability for use in an academic
  • most governments and non-governmental
    agencies now publish primarily online

Have a look at our Evaluating Web Resource Guide to learn how to identify appropriate wed resource for academic research.

The Open Web