It's important to be able to distinguish between various genres of literature (such as essays, poetry, short stories, and novels) because those genres have different qualities and characteristics that come into play when you consider and analyze them. It's even more important to be aware of genre characteristics when you're writing your own projects because you have to consider your writing form and audience.
Similarly, there are different types of information sources that you should know how to distinguish between because they provide different sorts of information. For instance, newspapers are good for factual reports and basic debate on current topics. On the other hand, books are less timely but include far more background information and comprehensive research on a topic. In addition to newspapers and books, other types of information sources include:
By the end of this module, you should be able to:
|When researching your paper/project/topic, it is helpful to think of your sources as being a part of an Information Life Cycle. All sources that comment on a particular topic are influenced by sources that came before and will influence those that are published after. The best researchers chart the life cycle of their topics through the creation of a literature review, because one of the most important things you can do when starting research is to scan the existing information and determine what has already been said about your topic (Bobish & Jacobson, 9). A literature review helps the researcher to understand the way a topic has been discussed and influenced over time, and also serves as a way to show others the manner in which their own research comments on and adds to the life cycle. This is really what research is all about: Critically analyzing the information of a topic's life cycle and then contributing something unique to the scholarly discussion.|
Check out the following video to see an example of the a particular topic's Information Life Cycle:
There are three types of publications, and each has a different purpose and audience. When we discuss journals and magazines, we usually categorize these publications into three broad categories: scholarly, popular, and trade.
One very crucial differences between scholarly journals and other types of publiactions is peer review.
How do you know if an article you found in a database is from a scholarly journal? Just take a look at this chart:
|Criteria||Scholarly Journal||Popular Magazine||Trade Magazine/Journal|
|Content (Accuracy)||In-depth, primary account of original findings written by the researcher(s); very specific information, with the goal of scholarly communication.||Secondary discussion of someone else's research; may include personal narrative or opinion; general information, purpose is to entertain or inform.||Current news, trends and products in a specific industry; practical information for professionals working in the field or industry.|
|Author (Authority)||Author's credentials are provided; usually a scholar or specialist with subject expertise.||Author is frequently a journalist paid to write articles, may or may not have subject expertise.||Author is usually a professional in the field, sometimes a journalist with subject expertise.|
|Audience (Coverage)||Scholars, researchers, and students.||General public; the interested non-specialist.||Professionals in the field; the interested non-specialist.|
|Language (Coverage)||Specialized terminology or jargon of the field; requires expertise in subject area.||Vocabulary in general usage; easily understandable to most readers.||Specialized terminology or jargon of the field, but not as technical as a scholarly journal.|
|Graphics (Coverage)||Graphs, charts, and tables; very few advertisements and photographs.||Graphs, charts and tables; lots of glossy advertisements and photographs.||Photographs; some graphics and charts; advertisements targeted to professionals in the field.|
|Layout & Organization (Currency)||Structured; includes the article abstract, goals and objectives, methodology, results (evidence), discussion, conclusion, and bibliography.||Informal; may include non-standard formatting. May not present supporting evidence or a conclusion.||Informal; articles organized like a journal or a newsletter. Evidence drawn from personal experience or common knowledge.|
|Accountability (Objectivity)||Articles are evaluated by peer-reviewers* or referees who are experts in the field; edited for content, format, and style.||Articles are evaluated by editorial staff, not experts in the field; edited for format and style.||Articles are evaluated by editorial staff who may be experts in the field, not peer-reviewed*; edited for format and style.|
|References (Objectivity)||Required. Quotes and facts are verifiable.||Rare. Little, if any, information about source materials is given.||Occasional brief bibliographies, but not required.|
|Paging||Page numbers are consecutive throughout the volume.||Each issue begins with page 1.||Each issue begins with page 1.|
Annals of Mathematics, Journal of Abnormal Psychology, History of Education Quarterly, Almost anything with Journal in the title.
Sports Illustrated, National Geographic, Time, Newsweek, Ladies Home Journal, Cooking Light, Discover
Architectural Record, PC World, Restaurant Business, American Libraries, Psychology Today, School Band and Orchestra
This is a modified version of a document originally created by librarians at the University of Michigan Shapiro Undergraduate Library.
Watch the following video to get a better sense of the differences between popular and scholarly journal articles:
Watch the following video to learn the process it takes for an article to become peer reviewed. In your time spent at SUNY Canton, you'll no doubt be assigned an article where you must find peer-reviewed articles for your research. So watch this video closely to ensure that you'll understand exactly what your professor expects of you.
For an example of how a database can help you tell the difference between various types of information sources, follow this link to the Criminal Justice Collection. After doing a keyword search you can select to browse either Newspaper or Academic Journal Articles by clicking the tabs below.