Types of Sources

Primary: A firsthand account of an event

  • archives and manuscript material.

  • photographs, audio recordings, video recordings, films.

  • journals, letters, and diaries.

  • speeches.

  • published books, newspapers and magazine clippings published at the time.

  • government publications.

  • journals

  • oral histories.

  • poetry

  • literature

Secondary: Analyzes primary sources

  • journal articles that comment on or analyze research.

  • books that interpret, analyze.

  • political commentary.

  • biographies.

  • dissertations.

  • newspaper editorial/opinion pieces.

Tertiary: Organizes a variety of sources, a container

[ tur-shee-er-ee, tur-shuh-ree ]

  • Textbooks

  • dictionaries and encyclopedias.

  • databases like Gale Literature, JSTOR, EBSCO, Academic One File, etc.

Common Sources: Trade Journals, Scholarly, and Popular Sources

Trade Journals

Primary or Secondary Sources

TARGET AUDIENCE: Professionals in the field and possibly interested amateurs.

AUTHORS: Professionals in the field or journalist with specialist background

PURPOSE: Report on the state of a particular trade or industry - news, trends, products etc. Focus is on information for practitioners in the field - continuing professional development



EXAMPLES: Police Chief, Education Digest, Energy Weekly News, Aviation Week and Space Technology, Engineering News Record, Design New, Fire Chief, Advertising Age, Chemical Week, Accounting Today, Waste and Recycling News, Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration News, Bloomberg Business, Entrepreneur Magazine, etc.


Mostly Secondary Sources

TARGET AUDIENCE: Professors, researchers, college and university students

AUTHORS: Written by scholar within an academic field -i.e., a current researcher at a university or research institute.

PURPOSE: Report on original research, experimentation, methodology, and theory. Refute / support theories of other researchers in the field.



Meridian's Databases (Meridian access only)

EXAMPLES: Journal of Asian History, New England Journal of Medicine, Chemical Reviews, Educational Psychologist, British Medical Journal, Canadian Journal of History


Primary or Secondary Sources

TARGET AUDIENCE: General Audience

AUTHORS: Written by journalists with a limited amount of subject expertise.

PURPOSE: Inform or entertain the reader, sell products, and/or promote a viewpoint.




Magazines: Time, Business Weekly, Vogue, National Geographic, Scientific American, Psychology Today, Entertainment Weekly, Better Homes and Gardens, The New Yorker

Newspapers: New York Times, Austin American Statesmen, Dallas Morning News, Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Washington Post

Evaluating Sources

C - Credibility or authority:

  1. Who wrote the article? Can you find the author or sponsor of the information? Do you trust the information that you are reading? What are their credentials? Education? Experience? Affiliations?

  2. Does the organization or business have a physical address? Can you find an "about us" or "contact us" link?

A - Accuracy:

  1. Is the text well written? Are there any grammatical errors or spelling errors? How professional does the page look? This could be a sign that there are inaccuracies of information if it doesn't seem professional in quality.

  2. Are sources cited or is there a reference page?

R - Reliability (objectivity):

  1. Is the author objective (neutral) or biased (opinionated)?

  2. Is there a clear political leaning to the publication? See

  3. Is the information free of advertising or clearly separated from it? Would the advertisers influence the content of the publication?

D - Date or currency:

  1. Is it easy to find the copyright date at the end of the page? When was it last updated? Is it current or within the last decade?

  2. If there are statistics, is it clear when the information was gathered? Is it current enough?

S - Source:

  1. Is the information based on primary or secondary sources or a combination of both?

  2. Are there links to other sources for the reader to refer to?