Chem 161, 162, 163

Which Source of Info Should You Choose?

The Information Timeline

There are many type of sources you can get your info from, so....which source should you use?

It depends...

  • are you looking for info on a general theme?  Consider the "Your Info Need" in the chart below  
    • It is generally helpful to start with Reference Sources first, then choose other source types based on the level of info most helpful to you
  • are you looking for info on a specific event in time?  Consider the "Timeline" in the chart below

(Click on image to enlarge)

Image of a table showing the breakdown of the information timeline, outlined also in the text below the image.

As shown in the image above, information is created, recorded, and distributed various different mediums at different times. 

Information Timeline 

The event occurs and…

  • Within minutes or hours - you can find info on Social media platforms – such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs, etc.

    • Good for: short personal reactions, opinion, announcements

  • Within hours, a day – you can find info in Newspapers, news sites, TV, Radio – such as, BBC radio, New York Times, etc.

    • Good for: current or local info, facts, viewpoints, breaking news

  • Within a week to a month – you can find info in Magazines or Trade journals – such as Time, People Magazine, Wired, Education Week, etc.

    • Good for: summaries of info, some analysis for general public or specific profession

  • Within 6 to 8 months later and continuing – you can find info in Peer-Reviewed scholarly journals­ - such as like Nature, Journal of American Medical Association, etc.

    • Good for:  deep analysis of specific topics in academic research

  • Within 1 year later and continuing – you can find info in Books and Films – such as non-fiction, biographies, documentaries, etc.

    • Good for: thorough, comparative coverage of a topic history, complexity

  • Within 2 years later and continuing – you can find info in Reference Sources – such as encyclopedias, textbooks, atlases, manuals, etc.

    • Good for: broad overviews, key issues, statistics, topic specialized vocabulary

Image source: all images here created by GRC librarians

Info Types: Popular vs Professional vs Scholarly Information in Chemistry

Information Types in Chemistry

How Can You Tell the Difference Between Types of Periodicals?

Cover Scientific American Canadian Chemical News Scholarly Journal: Journal of Research & Developments in Chemistry
Trade Journal
Scholarly Journal
Most articles are signed, though  not all. Authors are a mix of science journalists with a few academics from different fields A mix of writers for the publications and academics in chemistry Primarily academic researchers and scholars in the field of chemistry
Articles are accessible and do not assume prior knowledge. News briefs, opinion, letters, professional development, research briefs or overviews. Assume some knowledge Original research, literature reviews of existing research, & analysis. Use specialized terminology and assume knowledge in the field
Authors speak to researchers, cite some experts. No references. Collection of original research briefs, interviews, news. Research briefs will have reference. Primary research or metareviews and analysis of existing research. Original work. Extensively cited
Edited by a general magazine editor. Edited by publication editor Peer reviewed for publication by specialists in the field
Written for the interested general public Written for professionals working in a field Working for other researchers and scholars
To inform and entertain To support and inform those working in a field  To further knowledge in the subject area

One way to check if a journal is a peer-reviewed scholarly publication: check the journal website for its editorial policy.

One word of warning: Scholarly journals may contain book reviews, news briefs, and editorials. Checking the scholarly peer-reviewed journal box in a database is step 1 to finding a scholarship. You still need to assess the article itself.

Scholarly Literature

What is Scholarly literature?

Scholarly literature refers to journals and books of original research and analysis that further our knowledge in a field.

Scholarship is how academics and researchers stay current in their fields.

Scholarship is a conversation in which authors look for gaps in existing research and knowledge, and they build on, test, reinforce, and/ or refute existing scholarship on their topic.

Types of Scholarly Articles

Three types of scholarly articles in chemistry:

A Research article reports on an original experiment or study that investigates a stated problem. The study is carefully controlled so that results are valid. Data is collected and analyzed. 

Literature Reviews & Metareviews summarize and analyze the important articles on a topic. Literature reviews are a great resource for learning about the scope of research, questions, issues and theories in a field. 

A Theoretical article is an article that presents a theoretical approach to a question or field. It draws on others' research to support the theory, rather than presenting new research and data.

Compare 3 Sources on Plastics

Challenge: Compare Sources

The sources linked below are all about plastics, plastic recycling, and bioplastics. 

Skim through them and consider the following:

  • Which do you think is original scholarship? 
  • Which one is a trade article?
  • Which is a news article for the general public?

Why do you think that? Identify specific reasons. 

Use the info timeline and info type chart on this page to support your considerations.