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Technological Literacy Across the Social Sciences - SSCI101

Review of common source types

Before you begin your research, it will help to be aware of the different types of information sources you may encounter. These are just a few of the options that you will likely find when doing research for any college course, but when you encounter other types (like blogs or online videos), you can ask yourself the same three questions to determine how a source might be used:

  • Who is the intended audience?
  • What type of information does it contain?
  • What is its purpose?

Other questions to ask when determine what type of source something is and whether it is relevant to your research include:

  • Is this a qualitative or quantitative study?
  • What is the author's background or credentials?
  • How did the author gather information for this source?
Source type
Type of information


(in print and online)

general public

no prior knowledge of the topic

the most current information that is known at the time the article was published

usually short articles that cover a topic on the surface without a lot of depth or background

to inform readers about current events and issues usually at a surface level

Wall Street Journal

New York Times (create an account with your email for access)


(in print and online)

general public

no or little prior knowledge of topic

information and opinions about popular topics, current events, and social issues

short articles are on a surface level; longer articles may go more in-depth or cover a wide variety of perspectives on the topic

to inform and persuade an audience that has a particular interest in the topic or subject area

to provide an overview of many aspects of a broad topic


Psychology Today

The Atlantic


Scholarly/peer reviewed journal 

(in library database or on the internet)

scholars and experts in a field

articles written by scholars for other scholars often on a very narrow topic

articles are often peer-reviewed, or reviewed by other experts in the field for quality, originality, and value to the scholarly conversation on the topic 

to share the results of a research study or in-depth analysis of an issue with other scholars 

to participate in a scholarly conversation about a topic of research interest to the author

Journal of Applied Research in the Community College

Journal of Child & Family Studies

Government website

general public 

researchers looking for data

professionals in public policy related fields

statistics and data collected by state or federal government agencies

explanations of public policy, government regulations, or policies for state and federal government offices

documents published by state or federal government offices

to inform the public of policies, procedures, regulations, laws

to provide necessary forms to the public

to share publicly-available data, reports, or other publications (not all publications are free or available online)

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics


Academic book or ebook

students or scholars

individuals who have a particular interest in the topic

depending on the book, information may be written for novices or people who are new to the topic; vocabulary will be defined and main concepts will be fully explained

more advanced academic books intended for other scholars will use more sophisticated language and specialized vocabulary; ideas will be explored in depth and existing research will be referenced; new research or ideas may be presented in full detail and connected to existing research or theory

to cover a broad topic comprehensively 

or to delve into finer details of a complex topic that can only be addressed in a lengthy work

College (un)bound : the future of higher education and what it means for students

Food, farms, and community: exploring food systems