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Explore Information — Getting the Lay of the Land

Exploring the Information Landscape looks at some of the different types of information resources you will encounter while you're conducting college-level research. Some resources we look at will be familiar (like magazines & newspapers), and some of them will probably be new.

It's important to have some understanding of the process by which an information resource was created. Here's an example: Sometimes students are told that they are not allowed to use online resources for their projects. What happens when a student finds a book written by a respected scholar that is perfect for their topic - but! - the library is out of the physical copy. All they have is the e-book. What's the difference between the physical & the e-book? Understanding the underlying similarities - regardless of format - can help this hypothetical student recognize the usefulness of the book, and make the case to their instructor.

Having an understanding of some of the features of the information you encounter will help you to choose information to use in your project. 

This guide will:

As you encounter information, you might find it useful to note some of the features of the information you're encountering. This can help you think about what information to choose for your project and help keep track of your research.

Quick things to consider

Things to consider when you're starting to look for information:

  • How was this information created? Was it fact-checked? Was there an editor? An interview with someone who witnessed an event?
  • What kind of project are you working on (research paper, short speech)? What kind of information do you need for that project?
  • Who is your audience? What kind of information do they value? (For example, college instructors often value peer-reviewed scholarly work.)
  • What kind of audience was the information created for? (e.g., general audience, experts in the subject, practicing professionals)
  • Don't discount an information source just because of its format - valuable information comes in many forms!

Format Types of Information

The format of information (or its delivery method) does not equate the process of its creation. For instance - something that is online-only may still have gone through rigorous editorial & peer-review process. Dr. Oz has glossy-looking books - but they're probably not the most reputable, especially in a nursing class!

Here are just a few of the many different information formats to consider! When you encounter information, consider the process & purpose of creation.

Type Information Purpose Examples

book cover affairs of honor

Books

The information can be general or scholarly and often covers a topic in depth. Scholarly books always include extensive references to works cited for enhanced credibility.

 

Print or Digital formats

In depth information on a topic

Historical background

The New Jim Crow 

Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic

Academic Journals

Contain articles written by scholars/experts in the field of study. Always include references to works cited for enhanced credibility.

Print or Digital formats

Share information with other scholars on a particular aspect of a topic.

Nature

Psychological Bulletin

cover of magazine atlantic

Magazines

Contain articles written for a general audience on a variety of topics. Magazines may also be considered Trade publications with articles written for professionals in specific fields. Published regularly (weekly, monthly).

Most do not contain references. Credible magazines should include sources.

Print or Digital formats

Current information

General information


 

Time

National Geographic

cover Hartford Courant

Newspapers

Collection of articles written by journalists for the general public on any subject. Credible newspapers should include sources. Published daily.

Print or Digital formats

Current information
Local, National, World

New York Times

Washington Post

Hartford Courant

cover government document

Government
Documents

Information published by the national, state, or local government. Content can include text, visual (photographs, maps, film) and sound files. 

Print or Digital formats

To provide detailed information to inform citizens & government

Climate Change Indicators in the United States

https://www.gpo.gov//

Websites Online sources of text, video, images, audio formats.  Many purposes, from many different creators!  
Audio and Video Visual or sound recordings as DVDs, CDs, or digital files     
Interviews

Information from experts or personal contacts.

 

First hand experience