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Library Online Tutorial for BRE366

About Module 2

In this module, you will learn to:

  • Differentiate scholarly journals, trade publications and popular magazines
  • Identify various types of information sources, including books, journal articles, newspapers and standards
  • Decide when to use which specific resources based on your research needs

Identify Information Sources based on Your Needs

The Amazing Journey of Information from InfoLit for U [3:36]

Before you start looking for the related information to answer your research question, you need to identify the right information source. There are so many different types of resources around us - data, technical report, conference paper, journal article, books. Watch the video "The Amazing Journey of Information" to learn how information flows from one type to another.

Scholarly materials vs. Popular materials

Scholarly, trade, and popular articles from Joshua Vossler [4:53]

Scholarly materials are published works written by experts and are for experts in a particular field. They are referred as academic and usually peer-reviewed works. Reference books, books, trade journal articles, scholarly journal articles, are common types of scholarly materials.

Popular materials are works written for general audience. Magazines, newspaper articles are common types of popular materials. 

You are likely to use popular sources to help you build the understanding of a topic before using scholarly sources to further develop an academic argument for your research. Watch the video "Scholarly, trade, and popular articles" to learn the difference among the three in more details. 

Library databases, OneSearch, or Google?

All these platforms offer you both scholarly and popular materials. 

  • Google searches everything on the internet, and usually it gives you more than you need. Google Scholar, a scholarly version of Google, searches for articles and books. However, many of them are not peer-reviewed works.
  • OneSearch is the library's search engine, and provides you with the link to full text subscribed by the Library. Similar to Google Scholar, you will find too many results especially when your keywords are not specific enough. 
  • Databases usually contain specialized materials. Some databases provide subject-specific materials, e.g. IEEE Xplore - to look for scholarly articles in electrical engineering; some provide a particular type of material, e.g. WiseNews - to look for news. The information covered databases are curated by professionals in the subject area. The database platforms also allow you to search within specific field (e.g. title, keywords), and to refine your search results using filters - all to help you find what you need quickly and effectively. 

Library subscribed to hundreds of databases. You may take a look at the databases in Building and Construction subject, or browse databases by type of resource.

When to find what

The selection of the type of materials depends on the type of information you need. The table below lists some most commonly used scholarly sources and popular sources for serving different purposes in BRE context.

Selected Resources for BRE

Type of Materials Purpose Recommended Resources
Scholarly materials
Reference Works (dictionaries, encyclopedias, handbooks) To get some background information of a subject; look for “definition”, or a fact, like the entries in Wikipedia, but in scholarly format.
Books To get the whole picture and more in-depth context of a subject.  Direct search in OneSearch
Scholar Journal Articles To understand the latest research of a very specific topic.

Subject specific: 


Standards To find the rules or requirements concerning definitions of terms, procedures, or quality of performance for materials, products, systems, etc.
Popular materials
Newspapers To find information of current or historical events, local and international.
Magazines (Popular Journals) To find up-to-date information and opinions about events and popular culture. e.g. Time, The Economist
Statistics To find numbers, data, statistics to answer "how many" or "how much" questions.

Evaluate Information Sources

Once you have identified the books, articles or websites, you will need to make sure your sources are reliable and relevant to your research topic. 

You can use the CRAAP test to evaluate your sources - basically ask yourself questions on whether your source is current, relevant, authoritative, and accurate. Watch the video "Evaluate Sources" to learn how CRAAP test can be used. 

CRAAP stands for:

Evaluating Sources from Western University [2:16]

  • C - Currency:
    • When was the information posted or published? 
    • Are the links still working?
  • R - Relevance:
    • Does the information relate to your topic?
    • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or too advanced for your needs)?
  • A - Authority:
    • Who is the author/publisher?
    • What are the author's organizational affiliations?
    • Does the website URL reveal anything about the source? 
Commonly seen domains include:
.com - mainly for commercial (for profit) entities. You should be most cautious of the information provided by these sites.
 - mainly for organizations, can be for profit or non for profit.
.gov - mainly government websites. 
.edu - mainly for educational use. The sites are usually for universities or institutions. 
  • A - Accuracy:
    • Is the information supported by evidence?
    • Has the information been peer reviewed?
    • Are there any spelling errors?
  • P - Purpose:
    • What is the purpose of the information? Is it to inform, teach, sell or entertain? 
    • Is the information fact, opinion or propaganda?