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Searching and finding: Information Sources - introduction

Part of the Information Literacy Portal

Searching for sources

Source: NEIU Libraries

Introduction: Information Sources

Once you have formulated a good search question, you can choose which information resources to use. You will need to decide what sort of information you need. This will determine where you should search.

Not all information is suitable for every purpose. Sometimes you will need to find out about the latest advances in your subject area, and another time you will need statistics to back up your report.

There are many ways to classify information.

General - In-depth - Current

Use General Information to become more familiar with your assignment and to determine your search terms. Think, for example, of using dictionaries and encyclopedias, and information found by using general search engines.

In-depth information is needed to understand your subject and to find relevant concepts and theories. This is important for defining your topic and refining your search terms. You will find this kind of information on the library's website and in LibGuides.

Current information provides an overview of the most recent developments, in general or in a specific field. You can consult newspapers, websites and journal articles for this. Pay attention to the reliability of the sources you choose.

Full text - Bibliographical - Factual

Full text sources provide access to complete publications. Unfortunately, full-text publications are often not freely accessible, usually you have to pay to gain access. Zuyd Library has licenses to a number of databases, giving you full text access to a lot of relevant information. For an overview of full-text sources relevant for your study, look at the LibGuides per discipline overview. 

Bibliographic sources or referring sources provide information about publications such as: title, author, publisher, year of publication, summary and often include the location of the full text document. An example of a bibliographic source is a catalogue. In the Zuyd Library Catalogue you will find the data and location of the hardcopy books and printed journals, present in the Zuyd Library collection.

Factual sources provide access to already available factual information. This can be statistical data or data about companies or countries. An example of a factual source is 'Eurostat' the European Union's statistical office database.


Scholarly information

Is written for, and by, scholars in a field.

Characteristics of this type of publication:

  • Peer reviewed
  • Systematic structure with introduction, problem definition, methods, results, discussion and conclusions
  • Contains a description of the research method used
  • Scientific and nuanced language
  • Research data (quantitative data, graphs, tables, analyzes of original texts
  • References in the text and a comprehensive reference list

There are databases with information regarding a specific field, eg PubMed (medical) and there are multidisciplinary databases such as ScienceDirect and Wiley. There are also freely accessible websites with scientific information such as NARCIS


To find out which database is the best one to use for your subject, you can consult a 
subject-specific LibGuide

Popular information

This is information meant for the general public, usually without references and therefore not to be used as a source for serious research. You can use this kind of information as a means of orientation on your topic at the beginning of your research process.


Examples of this kind of information are weekly news magazines such as Times, The Week or Der Spiegel, and news sites such as

Watch this infoclip about scholary vs popular information

Information for trades and professions

Information in a specific field is aimed at professional practitioners and professionals. It can be a professional organization's website, a professional/trade journal or a publication aimed at a specific target group.

Characteristics of these publications include:

  • use of language ranging from simple to complicated
  • produced for the professional work field; practical relevance is paramount
  • few source references
  • geared to readers in the relevant professional work field

These publications are not academic, but they can be highly informative.

There are specialized journals and databases such as  

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