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Boatwright Memorial Library

Humanities & Film Librarian

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Nick Dease
Boatwright Library, Rm. 185
261 Richmond Way
University of Richmond, VA 23173

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WGSS 365 Gender, Sex, and Law (Skerrett)

Identifying Different Types of Information Sources

We gather information from all types of sources. Depending on what our project is, many types of sources might be referenced:

  • Legal documents
  • Mission driven work of activists and advocacy groups
  • Opinion pieces and editorials
  • Journalism, news media
  • Speeches

Consider why a source relevant to to your research project before you cite it. You might reference a source for any number of reasons, for example- an autobiography might reveal someone's firsthand account, or a news article might tell us something about how media reported on an event in the context of the times.. 

Regardless of whether you are looking for, make sure you do your own critical analysis. Determine the purpose of the source of information - is it intended to educate, persuade, or just "present the facts"? Determine the author's expertise, analyze the publication or platform and determine its purpose or audience. All of this is important and will inform your decision to incorporate the source into your reserach.

Scholarly Sources

Scholarly writing or academic scholarship tends to come from people (like your professors) producing knowledge and engaging in conversation with fellow scholars in their field. This work may be published in academic journals, as a book, a chapter in an edited volume, or an online publication.

Learn to recognize scholarly sources with the following criteria:

  • The author most likely will list their credentials such as their highest degree, university affiliation, and department.
  • The writer uses highly specialized language, specific to a discipline or area of study.
  • The work includes extensive citations, bibliographies, or footnotes, showing the author is aware of a body of scholarship relevant to the field.
  • The content has been published by an academic institution or university press, the journal is specific to a field of study or discipline.
  • The author's work is most likely "peer reviewed" or has gone through a rigorous editorial process by fellow experts in the field, which can take a long time. If you can't tell if something is peer reviewed, look up the journal or press website and see if you can find something out about the editorial process. Otherwise, you can always use a "peer review" filter in your databases search!

Remember- academic scholarship is only one type of information source. It isn't necessarily more credible or valid than other types of sources. Always be thinking critically about the author's methodologies and data analysis, and look for clear biases and political perspectives.