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College Credit Plus @ BGSU: Types of Sources

Resources available through Jerome Library for College Credit Plus students

Vocabulary for this page

Scholarly journals: An academic journal or scholarly journal is a periodical publication in which scholarship relating to a particular academic discipline is published. 

Periodical: a magazine or newspaper published at regular intervals

Trade journals: a periodical containing news and items of interest concerning a particular trade, profession, or industry.

Database: a structured set of data held in a computer, especially one that is accessible in various ways.

All definitions from Oxford Languages, except for Scholarly Journal, which came from Wikipedia.

Where to search for sources

Most of the types of sources included on this page are electronic and are organized within databases. BGSU Libraries provides access to more than 300 databases to support the research needs of students, staff, and faculty. See the "How to search for articles" tab for more information.

Searching for books requires a different tool: the library catalog. See the "How to search for books" tab for more information.

The benefits of using multiple source types

With any research project you should consult and compare multiple sources. Why?

1. to compare the information you find

2. to overcome the shortcomings of a source by using another source type

For example, you may find a newspaper article which provides relevant and timely facts on your topic. However, the newspaper article is short and offers limited information and no analysis. Using a more in-depth source like a book or journal article will help you balance your research.

Common types of sources provided by academic libraries

Scholarly Journals

A scholarly publication contains articles written by and for experts in a particular field.  In many cases, the authors of these articles have conducted their own original research and are reporting the results of their study in the article. Many of these publications are "peer reviewed" or "refereed", meaning that scholars in the same field review the research and findings before the article is published.  Articles in scholarly publications, in most cases:

  • use scholarly or technical language

  • include a full bibliography of sources cited in the article

Typical components of a scholarly journal article are described in "Anatomy of a Scholarly Article" from North Carolina State University Libraries.

Trade Publications

Trade publications are generally intended for practitioners in a specific field but are not intended to be "scholarly".  Rather, they communicate the news and trends in that field.  Articles in trade publications, in most cases:

  • are written by practitioners in a field (nurses, teachers, social workers, etc)

  • use the language (and jargon) of the field

These publications are one of the places that discourse communities may communicate with one another.

Magazines & Newspapers

There are many occasions on which reading magazine or newspaper articles can help to introduce you to a topic and introduce you to how that topic is being discussed in society.  Articles in these sources:

  • are typically written by journalists or professional writers for a general audience

  • written in a language that is easy to understand by the general public

  • rarely have a bibliography - rather, they are fact-checked through the editorial process of the publication they appear in

  • don't assume prior knowledge of a subject area - for this reason, they are often very helpful to read if you don't know a lot about your subject area yet

  • may contain an argument, opinion, or analysis of an issue

Books / Book Chapters

Many academic books will be edited by an expert or group of experts.  Often, books are a good source for a thorough investigation of a topic.  Unlike a scholarly article, which will usually focus on the results of one research project, a book is likely to include an overview of research or issues related to its topic.


Encyclopedias contain brief factual articles on many subjects. Entries in encyclopedias are great for brief background or overview information on a topic and/or when trying to find key ideas, important dates or concepts. There are two types of encyclopedias -- general and subject.

  • General encyclopedias provide overviews on a wide variety of topics. 
  • Subject encyclopedias contain entries focusing on one field of study.