Types of Information

There are several types of information available to you.

We will just cover the basics:

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1. Encyclopedias, dictionaries, guides, and handbooks can all provide an introduction and overview, define the terminology, and supply basic factual information such as names, dates, places, and issues.

Try searching an online encyclopedia or reference database:

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2. Books are reliable sources of information. The information is checked by editors and the books are carefully selected by librarians. Because books take so long to write and publish, they may not have the latest information on a current topic.

Use MnPALS, the NCC Library's online catalog, to find a book on your topic. Search MnPALS right now:

How to Find Books - Tutorial on Finding a Book in the Online Catalog

  • Use MnPALS "Keyword" search to find books on your topic. You may combine terms using the word "and" (for example, plath and poetry). To broaden your search, reduce the number of keywords. To narrow your search, add more keywords.
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3. Scholarly journals are also very reliable sources of information. The information is "peer-reviewed" by professionals in that field. Scholarly journals take less time to publish than books, but the process is still too lengthy for current topics. The content is original research of an academic interest not a general interest or current events.

Examples:  American Sociologist, Journal of Learning Disabilities, History and Theory

 What to look for in a journal article: abstract, methods, summary or conclusion, discussion, bibliography, charts or graphs, usually many pages long.
Search an article database for scholarly journal articles.  The following databases are good choices and allow you to limit your search to scholarly or academic journals:

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4. Popular magazines contain general interest topics and current events. Magazine articles are reviewed by an editor so they are more reliable than a web site. The articles are written by journalists, not professionals, and contain no research. Magazines are often written for a specific audience and may contain bias.

Examples:  Time, Newsweek, People Magazine

What to look for in a magazine article: pictures, short articles, advertisements, glossy pages, no bibliography
Search an article database for articles in popular magazines.  You can limit your search to magazines in the following two databases:

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5. News sources such as newspapers and radio and TV transcripts are good sources to search for articles and information on current events.

Search for articles in newspapers in the following database:

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6. Websites provide current news and information. Anyone can publish on the internet, so information can be inaccurate, biased, and sometimes outdated. Scholarly information is generally not available on the web.

Remember to evaluate what you find:

  • How accurate is the website?
    • Is the information verifiable?
    • Does the site document sources?
  • What is this site about?
    • Look at the browser bar, document title, content, and links.
    • Does it have college level material?
    • Are the links relevant?
    • What information is available that is not covered in other sources?
  • Who created the page/website?
    • What are the author's qualifications?
    • Is the contact information for the author or sponsors given?
  • When was the information created?
    • When was the page created?
    • When was the page updated/revised/modified?
  • Where is the information coming from?
    • Check the domain extension, .edu, .com, .gov, .net, .org
  • Why is this site on the web?
    • Does this information represent a specific point of view?
    • Whose perspective is offered?
    • Is the purpose to inform, sell, entertain, persuade?
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