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TC Library Online

A guide to library resources

Finding Sources

Your topic and research question or thesis statement will determine which resources are best. If you are struggling to find information in scholarly sources, but can find information on the open web, that is a sign you need to re-evaluate your topic or research question.

A primary source is the original source of information on a topic. The source is usually created at the time of study. What defines a primary resource varies slightly with each discipline. Typically, artifacts, diaries and manuscripts, autobiographies or memoirs, photographs, audio files of interviews before editing, blogs and vlogs published and produced by the creator at the time of an event are considered to be primary information sources. See the page about primary sources in this guide for more information about primary sources.

Some information sources may be available in audio or video. Most books and articles are available either in print or online. Books may be available in paperback, hardback, large print or other types of editions or formats. The format and edition of an information source may affect whether the item is considered to be a primary source (the original source of information or an exact replica) or not.  However it is usually difficult to tell when something is an exact replica of the original.

Sources can be defined as primary, secondary, and tertiary levels away from an event or original idea. Researchers may want to start with tertiary or secondary source for background information. Learning more about a topic will help most researchers make better use of primary sources.

Information Timeline


Finding Authoritative Information

Periodicals are available in numerous formats, and are published for a variety of audiences. They offer news accounts, opinion, commentary, perspective, scholarly analysis, and reports of research findings. Periodicals are published at regular intervals - daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc. The main categories of periodicals are described below. NOTE: Some professors may require that you use only periodicals that fall within the Scholarly/Research Journal category. Check with your professors to clarify their expectations before you begin your research.


Types of Periodicals