CJ 101 Introduction to Criminal Justice (Williams)

For students in Michelle Williams' CJ 101

Compare Source Types: Different Info for Different Purposes

Compare Two Sources

Commentary  | Scholarly Research Study

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Full Text Below:

Compare the following sources on police misconduct. The list includes full text of the two images above.


How can you tell the difference between types of periodicals? Justice Quarterly


Popular magazines

Trade, industry and professional journals

Journals of commentary and opinion

Scholarly & research journals


Usually a staff writer or journalist. Sometimes the author's name is not provided.

Writers with subject knowledge or practitioners and professionals.

Great variety: specialists, journalists, organizational members, others.

Primarily experts, often university researchers, whose credentials are usually included.


Written for the "average" person who doesn't have in-depth knowledge of a topic. (popular)

Multiple levels of readers: general public to practitioners and professionals. (mostly popular)

General audience, high school and up. (popular)

Aimed at professionals, researchers, scholars, or others with more in-depth knowledge of the topic. (scholarly)


Entertainment, opinion, current topics, quick facts.

Trends, forecasts, news and events in the field; products, book reviews, employment, biography.

Commentary on social and political issues, specific viewpoints, book reviews.

Research, analysis, scholarship. Often includes abstract, research methods, conclusion, bibliography.


Shorter articles providing broad overviews of topics. (popular)

Short newsy items to longer, in-depth articles.

Varies:  short, pithy, articles to more in-depth discussion.  An issue may be devoted to a particular topic.

Longer articles providing in-depth analysis of topics. (scholarly)


Glossy, color pictures, advertisements.

Ads related to the field or profession.  Charts, tables, illustrations.

Varies considerably.  Some have graphics and advertisements.

Dense text, usually with graphs and charts, fewer specialized, advertisements.


Articles are generally evaluated by staff editors rather than experts in the field.

Articles reviewed by editors from professional associations or commercial/trade organizations.

Publications support a particular viewpoint or specific interest group.  Opinionated.

Articles reviewed by a "jury" of experts--"peer-reviewed" or "refereed"—before publication.


People, Essence, Hispanic, Good Housekeeping, Out, Time, Vogue, Sports Illustrated

Corrections Today, FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, Deputy and Court Officer, Federal Probation

Mother Jones, National Review, America, Harper’s, New Republic, Commentary, Progressive, Atlantic

Justice Quarterly, Criminal Justice Quarterly, Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology

Adapted from ACC Library Services Libguides.

Types of Information Sources

Source Types

Why are pages in this guide organized by source type? Because information is created for different purposes and audiences. Understanding what source types to look for is a helpful research strategy and using a range of source types helps add a diversity of perspective to your research.

Don't forget: you still need to assess every source to determine if it is current enough, authoritative, relevant, and reliable. 

  • Reference sources (articles from academic encyclopedias) are written by academics and they provide factual background information on a topic. Reference is a good place to go for general info on laws and issues.
  • News sources are written by journalists. News articles report and/or analyze current issues in our communities. Newspapers, magazines and news programs are a good source for information on current issues.
  • Opinion sources are written by stakeholders on key issues and their purpose is to persuade an audience to think, feel or act a particular way. Opinion sources may be written by editorial boards (editorials), advocates, professionals, politicians, and individuals.They may be designated as editorials, op-eds, commentary, or viewpoints.
  • Scholarly literature provides authoritative and reliable research and theory on criminal justice issues, policies and practices. The goal of scholarship is to further knowledge in a field of academic study and professional practice.
  • Government web sources are a good source of information for current statistics, programs and policies on criminal justice topics. 
  • The Web is a good resource to search for advocacy organizations, think tanks and policy groups, and government resources. As with all sources, be sure to ASSESS each source for reliability and credibility.