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ENGL 015: Rhetoric and Composition (Nicholas)

TYPES OF SOURCES

Throughout your research, you will find many different kinds of sources: tweets, websites, Wikipedia entries, newspaper and magazine articles, books, journal articles, and so on.  These differences in form largely reflect their overall purpose. There is a reason, for example, that scientific research appears in peer-reviewed journals or that current news appears in newspapers or that celebrity gossip appears on TMZ.com.

Watch this video to learn about this idea in more detail.

Knowledge about any topic develops over a period of time. That means you find different kinds in different types of sources. Since you are investigating a popular trend, most of your resources will most likely be popular in nature (e.g. general websites, news and magazine articles, and TV and radio reports). Trends can be identified and quickly reported on in these types. Scholarly material (e.g. peer-reviewed journal articles, scholarly books), however, take much more time to produce. The ephemeral nature of popularity many trends may never be systemically studied by scholars and/or scientists.

See the infographic (from the University of Illinois) below for an illustration of this process. A text version is available here.

Infographic of the information cycle. Text version available

FINDING SOURCES

To find information in popular sources, the following resources are your best bet.

You could also perform a general Google search. Just make sure to evaluate whatever you find (see below).

EVALUATING SOURCES

If you’re going to use any source as a piece of evidence, you should evaluate it. Ask yourself:

  • Who is the author? How is the author’s credibility established? Does the reputation of the publication provide the author with credibility?
  • What is the purpose? Is it to inform? Educate? Entertain? Advocate? Its purpose will help you understand the ways it constructs Authority, ensures Accuracy, and limits Bias?
  • Who is the intended audience? What beliefs or values might they share? How might these beliefs and values shape the way the author constructs the message?

If you feel that you can defend a source’s credibility and trustworthiness, cite it. For help with citations, visit the University Libraries Citation Guides.

NOTE: It is necessary to evaluate a message’s specific claims. That, however, can be complicated. You need to compare and corroborate them to determine if they’re consistent with those in other information sources. You may need to engage in a process called lateral reading (searching for information about a source by reading what other sites say about it).