Skip to main content

SHB SOCIOL & ANTHRO Courses: Types of Sources

Dana Atwood

What type of information?

Understanding the different types of information sources, and the purposes of each, can help you determine whether you should use the information for a research paper.  The formats generally fall within 3 main categories: Popular, Trade/Professional and Scholarly.  Review the chart below to understand the features of each.

Remember, all categories of sources can be found in print and digital media. There are both print and digital collections of popular, trade and scholarly sources. The place (for example, a library or a computer) you find a source does not necessarily define the type of source it is. 

Scholarly format

Anatomy of a Scholarly Article

Identifying popular, trade & scholarly sources

 

Author(s)

Format

 Language/vocabulary 

Graphics

Audience

Popular

Identified sometimes

Often a journalist

No prescribed format

Length varies

Uses everyday language

Graphics/photos designed to draw interest

Of interest to a wide, general audience

 Trade/Professional 

Identified usually

Credentials sometimes (~Professional)

No prescribed format

Length varies

Common language or language of the trade

Graphics/photos designed to draw interest

Of interest to those employed in or following the field

     Scholarly      (peer-reviewed)

Always identified

Academic credentials usually present

Usually: abstract, intro, discussion, references

Lengthy

More scholarly language

Detailed charts or graphs to show data, research findings

Of interest to other scholars

Narrow focus

When do I use each type?

Popular
  • For up-to-date information or current events
  • For information or opinions about popular culture
  • For finding key ideas, important dates or concepts
  • For general, background information on a topic

Trade/Professional

  • For topics of interest to those in a particular trade or profession
  • For finding current trends in a particular industry
  • For subject-specific background information
Scholarly
  • For in-depth information and research
  • For finding other research sources
  • For finding what has been studied on your topic