Types of sources

Resource Type


Publishing cycles

Good for…

Books - aka: Monographs:

This includes literature, nonfiction, and, broadly speaking, anything printed, bound, and published.


Varies depending on content.  Can take up to a year – sometimes longer

In-depth  analysis on a particular topic.


Collection of literature or music presented together.  In book format it could be a collection of essays of the same topic (art in California), by the same author (short stories by Kurt Vonnegut), or of the same genre (collection of contemporary poetry). 


Regarding music, it could be a collection of pieces performed on the same instrument (flute solos), by the same performer or artist (The Best of The Flock of Seagulls), or of the same genre (Disco Inferno: Discos Greatest Hits).

Varies depending on content

For books, can give you multiple perspectives on the same topic.

Magazines & Newspapers

Usually referred to as “popular” media/press.  U.S. News and World Report, Time, Newsweek, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Cosmopolitan, GQ (Cosmo for men…).  The intended audience is the general population, the articles are generally fairly short (compared to scholarly sources) and usually broad in scope and do not use language and vocabulary that can’t be understood by a wide audience.  Journalist usually do not provide in-depth analysis (again, compared to scholarly sources).

Daily, weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, and occasionally quarterly

Introduction to a topic.  Provide the “current state” of a particular issue and/or event.

Trade publications

Published for a targeted audience within a particular trade.  They will use language and vocabulary that is commonly know within a particular field.  Business 2.0 targeted to people in the financial sector.  Motor Trend is for people in the car industry.  Aperture for fine arts photographers.   Communication Arts for people within the design community.

Daily, weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, and occasionally quarterly

Good for understanding how an issue is impacting a particular industry.

Journals (Scholarly/academic)

Similar to magazines and newspapers in that there is a set publishing cycle.  Different in that the articles are much longer and provide more in-depth analysis (sometimes up to 50 pages!).  Usually written by experts within a field.  Very rigorous editorial process.

Usually quarterly but there are some that are published monthly

Journal articles will offer in-depth analysis of a particular topic.  Can be more useful than a book sometimes; the author may map out an argument throughout an entire book – whereas the argument/analysis will be made within a 10-20 page article

Government Information

This covers many different types of documents.  Agency reports, statistics, court documents, legislation, propositions…the list goes on.

Varies depending on type of document Many agencies publish annual/quarterly reports.  The census is taken every 10 years – but it takes another 10 years to communicate all of the data!!


Reference Sources


There are subject encyclopedias and general encyclopedias.  Encyclopedia include entries that are often referred to as articles and are generally intended to act as an introduction  World Book and Britannica are general – short entries on lots of topics.  Subject encyclopedias tend to have longer entries with bibliographies. Some examples - Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion, and my personal favorite An Encyclopedia of Swearing: The Social History of Oaths, Profanity, Foul Language, And Ethnic Slurs in the English-speaking World

While new editions are not published often, supplements or year books will often be published annually.

Starting your researching, finding basic data and info, looking for ideas,


A list of specific data (authors, articles, book titles).  An index to music published in The etude magazine, 1883-1957Humanities : a selective guide to information source, Index of characters in early modern English drama : printed plays, 1500-1660

Varies, though many are published annually



In addition to the well-known Miriam Webster’s, there are a number of specialized dictionaries.  These can include dictionaries for specific disciplines (Dictionary of Psychology) or more general topics (Dictionary of International Women).  The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is also a well know dictionary that currently comes in 17 volumes

New editions of dictionaries are not published often.  The OED has 2 editions – a 3th is in the works to be completed in 2037. 

Spelling, finding the roots of words, definitions, biographies, etc.