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Getting Started at the Library

Research Basics

Types of Information


There are different types of articles, and each type serves a different purpose.

  • Journal Articles - These may be called "peer-reviewed journal articles" or "scholarly journal articles." These are articles written by researchers and academics to share their research and findings with others. Journal articles are good if you need the most recent information about a topic, because they are published more quickly than books. Journal articles are usually very specific and are usually not good for background information or learning about a topic for the first time.
  • Newspaper Articles - Good for researching current events or historical information.
  • Magazine Articles - Magazine articles are primarily used for entertainment, not scholarly research. However, magazine articles may be useful for analysis by researchers in business, marketing or communications.

Books are good for in-depth and background information on a topic. Books are not peer-reviewed and can take years to be published, so some scientific information may be out-of-date compared to a recent journal article.  

There are two types of books:

  • E-Books - Electronic books can be very useful if you want to search the book quickly to see which chapter contain information about the topic you're researching.
  • Print Books - Print books can be physically borrowed from the library. Some books are only available in print.
Reference Sources, Encyclopedias and Handbooks

These resources focus on the basic facts or background information of a topic. They are a good place to start if you are learning about a topic for the first time.


This includes videos, images, audio and other types of non-textual sources of information. Media is especially useful for the arts and certain social and scientific subject areas.


Websites can be created by anyone and can contain information that is factual or false. For most college assignments, it is best to avoid using websites since it can be difficult to tell what is true and what is not. For certain types of information, such as government information, a website may be your best resource.

Where to Start Your Research

You may dive straight into searching TWUniversal or a library database, but often it is helpful to look for a subject guide or course guide that provides search tips and resources for a specific subject or course assignment.

Course Guides

If there is a library course guide for your course, this is the best place to start. A course guide is a customized research guide created by a librarian to help you complete research assignments in that specific course.

Subject Guides

subject guide is a collection of resources and search tips for doing research on a particular subject. Start here if there is no course guide for your class. In some cases, you may want to visit more than one subject guide.