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English: Not Sure

This guide is designed to help students and faculty access credible resources related to the study of English

Not Sure

Not quite sure what kind of information you need? Maybe this page will help.

Consider the following aspects of your research project to determine what information you might want to look for:

  • Topic
  • Audience
  • Purpose
  • Assignment Requirements

More details and questions to ask yourself are available below.

Topic

Your topic plays a huge role in the type of information available to you.

If we consider #MeToo as a topic, we would have to consider social media sources since it's a social media hashtag! It also represents issues surrounding sexual harassment and assault which would be covered by newspaper and magazine articles, in videos, in statistics, in scholarly research articles...

A topic like climate change would certainly be discussed on social media, but scientific reports and datasets might be better starting points for research in this area.

The currency of information is a concern for some researchers. If your topic is very new (something that happened in the last month), it's unlikely that scholarly articles exist already on that exact topic... when the Black Lives Matter Movement started in 2013, there were no academic studies on "Black Lives Matter"... however, there were lots of studies and news articles about protesting police brutality, race relations in the US, etc.

Audience

Who are you creating your work for? (Try to think beyond your instructor or fellow classmates!)

Format (what you are making- letter to the editor, blog post, press release, course syllabus, business proposal, poster for kids at an elementary school, etc.) ties into audience as well... a newspaper article would be meant for a broader audience, where a project report might be targeted to your boss at work. What kinds of information do these different audiences find trustworthy? What do they expect you to include based on the format you select? (A scholarly journal article would require citing lots of other scholarly articles; a newsletter article would not.)

Purpose

The purpose of your work often informs the types of sources or information you would benefit from... if you are trying to present an objective piece of work, your readers will expect to see sources representing various viewpoints or issues related to your topic without you giving preference to one voice or perspective over another. If you are trying to convince someone about an issue, a tug at their heartstrings with a personal experience type source might be more beneficial than simply stating facts.

Consider what you're trying to accomplish with your work and what sources will help you reach that goal.

 

Assignment Instructions

Librarians often recommend using a wide variety of sources because they each have their strengths (academic articles are generally well-researched and thorough, news sources are usually current and provide more localized information, etc.). Since we don't assign grades, we want you to always review assignment requirements and check in with your instructor if you have questions. This goes for types of sources as well as how current your sources should be.

If you want help finding an example of the type of source you are creating to see how others have incorporated outside information into their work, please check the SLCC Open Collection of Student Writing page linked below or ask your instructor or a librarian for help.

Librarian Chat