GEOL 106

Source Types

Information is created for different purposes and audiences. 

Source type & format matter!

Information Timeline

The chart below doesn't include all the different source types you will come across in your research, but it is a useful way to think about and assess if a source type works for your needs - and why.

Remember to ask: Has the information been reviewed by an independent and informed set of eyes? 

(Click on image to enlarge)

information timeline graphic

Source: "Information Timeline" by QCCLibrary, educational use


After an event occurs, you can look to…

Social Media sources
  • within minutes – here social media platforms “breaks” the story. Info may be incomplete, false, or biased.
  • Examples: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Blogs, etc.
News sites, TC, Radio & Daily Newspapers
  • within days – As time passes, info gets added, updated and verified. Opinions emerge. Examples: cnn.com, BBC radio, New York Times, etc.
Weekly magazines
  • within a week – These offer more insight, likely to include context info, interviews, related topics.
  • Examples: Newsweek, Time, People, The New Yorker
Monthly magazines
  • within a month – additional time allows for better reporting. May include opinions.
  • Example: Time, People Magazine, Wired, National Geographic, Scientific American
Scholarly journals
  • Within 3+ months – written by experts, well-researched and objective.
  • Examples: Journal of American Culture, Nature, JAMA
Books
  • Within 12+ months – benefits most from hindsight. Gives most in-depth coverage of a topic.
  • Examples: non-fiction titles, textbooks, reference materials, etc

Video: How Library Stuff Works: Scholarly vs Popular Sources

Source: "How Library Stuff Works: Scholarly vs. Popular Sources" by McMaster Libraries, is licensed under a Standard YouTube License.

Learn about the differences between scholarly and popular sources and how to identify them when researching your topic.