Approaching the issue from multiple perspectives will add complexity to your position, which will lead to a stronger paper. Typically, a well-researched paper will not only include a diverse set of perspectives, but it will include references to a variety of sources that support your ideas. For college level research papers sources tend to use: academic, scholarly or peer-reviewed articles. However your sources will depend on the type of paper and your topic.
Primary sources include original content, first-hand accounts, raw data, documents or objects created at the time of study. Primary sources vary dependent upon the focus of study.
For example, primary sources for a historian will include diaries, letters, newspaper article written at the time of an event; for a literary scholar, she may study a poem, a short story, or novel; for a musicologist, she may study notes written by the composer; for a biologist, she will study the findings of an original research project.
Secondary sources interpret or analyze a primary source. A secondary source provides commentary and discussion of a primary source.
For example, a magazine article that discusses a research study that analyzed data collected from a survey about literacy in rural school districts.
The following video was produced for University of West Florida Library; it contains useful information about primary and secondary sources:
Article databases index both popular, professional/trade, and scholarly journals (or peer reviewed).
Peer reviewed or refereed articles refers to the process in which articles are reviewed by professionals in a field of study before being published. A journal's website should explain the publishing process and if it is peer reviewed or not. Many times professors use the term peer reviewed and scholarly articles synonymously.
|AUTHOR||Researcher, scholar, or specialist with expertise in the subject; author's credentials are provided||Journalist or staff writer; paid to write articles; may or may not be an expert in the subject||Usually practitioners and professionals in the field (has subject expertise)|
|AUDIENCE||Experts, scholars, researchers, professors and students in the field||General public||Professionals in the field; may appeal to the general public|
|PURPOSE||In-depth report of original research/findings written by the researcher; communicate scholarship||Current events and general interest stories; may report about other's research; to entertain and inform||Report current news, trends, and products about a specific industry; share practical information for professionals in the field|
|TONE||Scholarly or technical jargon or terminology||Accessible and readily understood by a larger audience.||Professional jargon or terminology|
|REFERENCES||Sources are cited in a bibliography, references, endnotes, or footnotes||Rare||Few, if any, sources cited|
|REVIEW||Refereed or reviewed by scholars in the field||Editor||Editor|
|LENGTH||Usually 5+ pages; often includes an abstract, goals and objectives, methodology, results, discussion, and conclusion||Usually short, a few pages||Usually short, a few pages|
|ADVERTISING||Little to none; occasional ads for professional organizations or publications||Numerous ads for a variety of products and services||Many ads for products, services, and organizations related to the profession or trade|
|FREQUENCY||Issues published quarterly, semi-annually, or annually||Issues published weekly or monthly||Issues published weekly or monthly|
|ADDITIONAL INFORMATION||A book review or editorial published in a scholarly journal does not fit the criteria for a scholarly article.|