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SHB Oostburg High School: Types of Sources (Description)

Tamala Szyman

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








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


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


More scholarly language

Detailed charts or graphs to show data, research findings

Of interest to other scholars

Narrow focus


Evaluate sources with the CRAAP test

Every message has a reason and the job of the researcher is to select the information that is most appropriate for an academic or educational purpose.  CRAAP is a set of easy-to-use (and remember!) criteria to help you choose the best information for your research papers.  Take a look at the worksheet and videos below to learn how to apply these criteria.

Note that if you've confirmed you're looking at a scholarly source, the Authority, Accuracy and Purpose should already be assured (as part of the peer-review process) - so you only need to consider Currency and Relevancy.

C: Currency

R: Relevance

A: Authority

A: Accuracy

P: Purpose