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Humanities Division: Choosing Sources

This guide is directed at students and staff in the various Humanities departments in the Faculty of Humanities & Education. Citing, MLA, Plagiarism, Evaluating sources

Types of Information Sources

Different kinds of information sources


Books are good for general background and in-depth coverage of a topic. They are often not as current as journal articles because they take a long time to research, write, and publish.

Books may be useful when:

  • You need a broad overview.
  • Your research topic is historical.
  • You want several opinions from one place. Some books are a collection of essays that give you several points of view in one source.

Books may not be useful when:

  • The topic is very recent. Books take years to get researched, written, published, purchased, and put on library shelves. If the issue you are researching is constantly changing, a book may be outdated by the time it gets to the library.
  • You have a fairly narrow topic. Sometimes books are to broad-based to address specific or narrow points.

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Journal Articles

Journal Articles

Articles tend to be narrow in scope and are good for focused treatment of a topic. Scholarly journals contain high-quality articles usually written by experts and use data and statistics to back arguments. Popular magazines and newspapers (such as Newsweek, People, or the New York Times) are good for current treatment of a topic and are good resources for editorials and opinions. These are not peer-reviewed, and contain articles designed to inform and entertain with brief accounts of events and issues.

Articles may be useful when:

  • Your topic is very recent. Articles, especially in newspapers and magazines, are intended to keep people up-to-date on the latest developments in various issues.
  • Your research topic is very narrow in scope. Some topics are so specific, whole books will not be written on them.

Articles may not be useful when:

  • You need background or overview information. Articles tend to focus on a specific aspect of a topic.
  • Your topic covers a long time span. When an issue has a long history, you may only find one aspect discussed in an article.

Selecting Information Sources

Subject Guide