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Planning Your Search Strategy LRC@TCC

Information Types 

The type of information you need depends on the course in which you are enrolled, your research topic, and the nature of your assignment. If you have any doubt about the type of information you need, be sure to talk to your instructor and/or a reference librarian. 

Is the information required by your assignment scholarly, popular, or both? 

Do you require current information, historical information, or both?

Does your topic have a geographical focus, e.g. are you interested only in your subject as it relates to this country or state?

Do you need an overview of your subject, very specific details about a certain aspect of your subject, both an overview and specific details, or something in between the two?

Do you need primary sources - such as statistics, research reports, letters, diaries, minutes of meetings, or artifacts -, secondary sources - usually books and periodical articles - or both? 

Amount of Information Required

Before you start your research, you should be aware of the amount of information you require. If you are not sure what is expected of you, ask your instructor. 

Remember that time is an important factor when you are doing research, especially when you are writing a paper that requires you to read a large number of sources.

If your library does not have all the materials you need for your assignment, you may be able to obtain these materials from another library using Interlibrary/Intercampus Loan. If you require materials from outside your library you should allow approximately two weeks for delivery.

Likely Sources of Information

Information comes in many formats. Each source is best suited to provide particular types of information.  For example, books, magazines, encyclopedias, videos, CD-ROM discs, and the Internet are all potential sources of information. However, every type of source is not necessarily appropriate for the information you require.

Textbooks- Scholarly, historical, general overviews

Encyclopedias-Scholarly, historical, general overview.

Books-Scholarly, popular, historical, general, specific.

Journals-Scholarly, current, historical,specific.

Videos-Scholarly, popular, historical, general, specific.

Magazines-Popular, current, general overview.

Newspapers-Popular, current, general, specific.

Government Document-all the above.

Internet-all the above, be careful!

Order of Information Gathering

If your knowledge of the subject is limited, it is often a good idea to proceed from the general to the specific, as in the following example: 

Consult text books, general and specialized encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks, and other reference books to get an overview and background information on your topic.

Consult the library catalog, references in your text book, and subject bibliographies to locate book titles on your topic.

Use index and abstract databases to locate magazine, journal, and newspaper articles on your topic. 

Primary Sources

A primary source is information (in its broadest sense) in its original form, uninterpreted by other writers. The exact form of a primary source varies widely from one discipline to another. The following list contains some common examples: 

an eyewitness account of or a participant in an event, such as letters, diaries, minutes of meetings, log books, or newspaper articles written at the time of the event.

data obtained through original research, such as reports of scientific experiments, government records, or market research surveys.

creative works, such as fiction, poetry, music, or art.

artifacts, such as historical photographs, pottery, furniture, or buildings. 

Secondary Sources

Any work that interprets a primary source is referred to as a secondary source. Common examples of secondary sources include literary critiques, literature reviews, and most books and journal articles. If a source does not fit the definition of a primary source, above, it is most likely a  secondary source. For more information use the library's subject guide on primary sources

Reprinted & adapted with permission from
Ross Tyner's Electronic Information Literacy.