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Module 2: Finding Sources: About Sources

Academic Source or Not?

Is the source written for a general audience?

Is the work from a commercial publisher? (not a University Press)

Can you find this publication at Walmart?

If you answered yes to the above questions, you are probably NOT looking at an academic source.

Academic sources are …

Typically written by a scholar (an academic associated with a university)


Published by a university press

Use Credible Sources

Keep these questions in mind then you do your research:

  • Who is the author, and what are his or her credentials? 
    • Most “academic” sources are written by professors who work for colleges or universities and are peer-reviewed by other scholars.
  • What type of source is it?  (book, journal article, newspaper, website, or blog), And where did you find it? 
    • Anything you find at Booth Library or through Booth’s website is probably credible, though not necessarily “academic.”  See below for determining academic sources.
  • How respectable is the publisher? 
    • Books from university presses and well-established publishers are best.
  • If it’s an online publication, who is hosting the site? 
    • Sites hosted by educational institutions (edu), nonprofit organizations (org), or the government (gov) tend to be more credible than .com sites.  That said: always be aware of bias in these sources!
  • How recent is the publication? 
  • New publications are preferable, depending on how you’re using them.  Be aware of the contexts of composition and publication: an article about women written in the 1950s is going to have a specific historical context.
  • What does the bibliography look like?
    • The references will help you evaluate the source’s credibility—are the sources legit?  Bonus: it will also give you new places to research.
  • How appropriate is the source to your specific project? 
    • Let your topic, your thesis, and your common sense be your guides. 

Primary & Secondary Sources

When researching, it is important to be aware of the differences between primary and secondary resources.  Click on the guide below for details...