Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

COM 110: Communication as Critical Inquiry

This guide, developed specifically for students enrolled in COM 110 and COM 110.01, provides strategies and content for finding resources, introducing types of information, evaluating sources, and citing in APA.

Types of Sources Table

Types of Information Sources

There are many different kinds of information out there. The following table describes a few commonly encountered types of sources, who creates them, who uses them, and some factors that might influence whether you choose to use them in an academic setting. Remember, there are no "good" types of sources or "bad" types of sources. While scholarly journals might be best to support your research paper, web sources might help you make a persuasive argument or gather background on a topic.

 

Source Type Author Audience Best For Downsides Timeline
Newspaper Journalists, columnists General audience General news coverage, interviews, primary sources. Record of historical events and quotes from witnesses. Authors not always experts; for breaking news, corrections after the fact are likely; potential editorial bias Day or week following event
Magazine Columnists, freelancers; may have little or no professional background on the topic General audience, people with specific interests on a topic or industry (cooking, sports, fashion, etc). Niche coverage of news, extended profiles and interviews Authors not always experts; sources not always cited or available Weeks or months following event
Books Researchers and scholars, but can be anyone. Choose books from scholarly presses or universities for research purposes (i.e. Oxford University Press). Varies depending on topic and genre (general audience to scholars) In depth coverage and analysis of events; background of historical events Academic books not always peer reviewed; can be long and dense; may be out of date; Months to years following event
Scholarly/academic journals Researchers or experts in the field Scholars, researchers, professionals, or students in the field. Audience is likely expected to have some broad knowledge of the topic and specialized language. In-depth research on a specific topic; peer reviewed studies written by experts; raw data and information; bibliographies of other sources; Terminology and data can be difficult to understand; often 10-40 pages long. Months to yearlong publishing process
Websites Anyone. Credibility and expertise cannot be assured. General audience News, government information, statistical information, company information, opinions and points of view. Credibility cannot be assured; possible misinformation and disinformation; sources not always cited. Information can go online immediately after an event

 

Comparison of Article Types

Characteristics of General Interest Articles

A black line illustration of a to-go coffee cup

What is the purpose?
Provides information to a general, educated audience

Why use them?
Stay up-to-date on current events and issues; Find potential research topics

Who is it for?
For a broad readership ranging from high-school educated to company executives to university presidents

Who writes the article?
Often written by journalists or staff writers

Who reviews the article?
Articles have minimal review by editorial staff

What type of language or writing is used?
Common language aimed at a high school reading level; little use of formal language, jargon, or unique terminology

Are other sources and cited?
Occasionally sources are referenced in the article but rarely formated as a bibliography or footnotes

Are images and advertising included?
Very often photographs, illustrations, and graphs are used to enhance an article; heavy reliance on advertising that appeals to a broad readership

How often are issues of articles published?
Varies greatly and can range from daily to weekly to monthly

 

A general interest magazine is a periodical that contains articles written by professional writers and journalists. While these writers may have some expertise on the subject they are writing about, they are not scholars. Because these articles are written for a broad educated audience, they are usually easier to understand than articles in scholarly journals. Before they are published, these articles are also reviewed, but not by scholars. Rather, they are reviewed by professional editors working for the magazine, who may or may not have some expertise on the subject of the article.

Characteristics of Scholarly Articles

A black and white clipart graduation cap

What is the purpose?
To inform, report, and show original research, experimentation, and thought

Why use them?
To support your own research, opinion, hypothesis, writing, etc.

Who is it for?
The reader is assumed to have a similar scholarly background

Who writes the article?
Written by researchers and scholars

Who reviews the article?
Articles go through strict review process by peers within the discipline / subject

What type of language or writing is used?
These articles rely heavily on unique terminology, jargon, and language specific to the discipline

Are other sources and cited?
Sources are always cited as footnotes, endnotes, or reference lists (bibliographies)

Are images and advertising included?
Graphs, charts, and illustrations related to the research are used; typically no advertising but when used it is very selective

How often are issues of articles published?
Varies greatly and can range from monthly to bi-monthly to quarterly

A scholarly journal, sometimes called a research journal, is a periodical that contains articles written by scholars and experts in a particular subject field. Your professors are scholars in the discipline they teach. Because these articles are written by experts for other experts, they contain technical and specialized vocabulary (jargon). A scholar prepares an article and submits it to a journal. A review process, known as “peer review,” requires submitted articles to be reviewed by other scholarly peers (or equals) to determine if an article is published. When it works properly, the peer review process should ensure that only high-quality articles are published in a journal.


Anatomy of a Scholarly Article

Click on the bubbles below to learn about the different parts of a scholarly article:

Characteristics of Trade / Professional Articles

A clipart image of a non-gendered person sitting at desk with a computer.

What is the purpose?
Provides news and trends in a field, but not original research; showcases leaders in the field

Why use them?
Stay up-to-date on trends, breakthroughs, and mover-&-shakers within a field; useful for job hunting or interviewing

Who is it for?
Written for practicing professionals in almost any field or industry

Who writes the article?
Written by industry professionals and experts

Who reviews the article?
While reviewed by editorial staff, they are rarely peer-reviwed

What type of language or writing is used?
Uses jargon or terminology specific to the field or industry

Are other sources used and cited?
Sources are often mentioned within an article but not typically formated as a bibliography or footnotes

Are images and advertising included?
Illustrations, charts, graphs, photographs and sometimes graphic art that is relevant to article; advertising aimed specifically to profession or industry

How often are issues of articles published?
Varies greatly and can range from daily to weekly to monthly

A trade publication is somewhere between a scholarly journal and a popular magazine. Articles in trade journals are written by and for people working in a certain field or discipline, for example, grocers, nurses, teachers, or business administrators. Article authors typically have some specialized knowledge, but are not scholars. Articles in trade publications are often easier to understand than articles in scholarly journals but are focused towards a specific group of people resulting in some use of professional terminology. Like articles in popular magazines, articles in trade journals are usually reviewed by professional editors.

Characteristics of Newspaper Articles

A clipart line drawing image of a newspaper. It doesn't look much like a real newspaper.

What is the purpose?
Provides current local and international news and special interest topics like travel, lifestyle, book & movie reviews, etc.

Why use them?
Stay up-to-date on what is happening in your community, the country, and world

Who is it for?
Written for a general audience

Who writes the article?
Written by staff reporters and columnists

Who reviews the article?
Reviewed by editorial staff and not peer-reviwed

What type of language or writing is used?
Uses general, everyday language and written for an 11th-grade reading level

Are other sources used and cited?
Sources are often mentioned within an article but news articles do not include a bibliography or footnotes

Are images and advertising included?
Illustrations, charts, graphs, photographs and sometimes graphic art that is relevant to article; advertising aimed to a general audience

How often are issues of articles published?
Varies; most often daily

Popular magazines

An image of a People Magazine cover from 2011. Steve Jobs is on the cover. It reads "The Life and Genius of Steve Jobs 1955-2011".Articles in popular magazines are kept short, with little depth and typically written to entertain or persuade a general audience; articles are written by staff or freelance writers. The heavy graphical format is focused on selling products or services.
Examples: Glamour; People Weekly; Reader's Digest; Sports Illustrated

Sensational magazines

Carrying little authority, articles in these publications are written in an inflammatory, sensational style. To arouse curiosity of readers, outrageous or startling headlines and photographs as well as melodramatic advertising are used.
Examples: Globe; National Enquirer; Star; Sun