Types of Sources

To figure out the type of sources that will work for your assignment, look at the course’s assignment sheet or ask your professor and T.A. for specific examples. Some professors may leave that up to your judgment.

Preference for types of information also differs by discipline or major. Scientists require up-to-date information found in journal articles, whereas humanities courses may rely on books. These are general rules of thumb, so it’s best to check with your professor or a librarian to learn the latest.

Suggested sources for an academic research paper are:

Journal Articles

They are published in academic journals. They range from studies, literary criticism, essays, and so on. They always include a bibliography. They are peer-reviewed or refereed, meaning that they are vetted before publication by experts in the field.

Academic Books/Anthologies/E-Books

They are published by university presses. Other types of academic books include anthologies, which have one editor and each chapter has a different author. An e-book refers to the format of the book. Rather than a traditional, paper copy, it’s viewable online.

Newspaper/Magazine Articles

These sources are not usually appropriate in an academic-level paper. There is a case to be made for using them to conduct content analyses or to illuminate a phenomenon that is too current to appear in the academic press.

Open Access Books or Articles

This is an emerging style of publication. Generally it means that items circumvent the traditional academic publication process of journal articles and books, which are very expensive.


Other potential sources include Government Publications, Legal Reviews, Statistics, or Historical Primary Documents