Research the Common Book - Undocumented

Types of Sources

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. A source can be:

  • article in a reference book
  • a chapter from a book
  • academic, scholarly or peer-reviewed articles
  • popular magazine articles
  • newspaper articles
  • websites
  • an interview

Primary & Secondary Sources

Primary sources include original content, first-hand accounts, raw data, documents or objects created at the time of the 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.

Critical Sources

A critical source is a source that interprets, analyzes, comments critically, and adds to the discussion of a primary source (aka secondary source). The best critical sources are written by experts in the discipline and are published by academic presses (example: University of Chicago Press or Harvard University Press) or appear in a peer-reviewing journal (see the Guidelines for Identifying Types of Articles) 

You can find critical sources through the library catalog and many of the library databases. For this research project, I recommend the following databases for articles: Communication & Mass Media Index, Academic Search Premier, Education Full Text, JSTOR, and MLA International Bibliography.