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McNair Scholars: 2. Identify Appropriate Resources

Optional Practice Activity

Optional: Watch the Peer Review in 3 Minutes video and look over the Identifying Sources for Your Research table on this page.

On your own or with partners, open the small group discussion activity Identifying Sources for Your Literature Review: Sample Articles for Discussion document that is linked below..

Think about the sample types of sources, and decide what each one is. If you are doing this with partners, discuss your opinions and come up with a conclusion.

What is Peer Review?

Identifying Sources for Your Research

Why is this important?

Each of the sources below may be useful when conducting your research of the literature, but not all of them will be equally valid for use in the writing of your literature review. Furthermore, it is essential to know what source type you are working with in order to create a proper citation for your reference list.

Below are some of the identifying features and things to consider when using various source types.

Author(s), Publisher, or Sponsor
Potential Use for Literature Reviews
Books and Book Chapters
book and book chapter
May be written by one author researchers, professionals, or the general public.

Published once, possibly revised in later editions.

Varies Lengthy; may be an in-depth fully developed argument, or may be an edited collection of authored articles. Extensive Explore reference list for useful scholarly articles. Potentially useful as sources for humanities or arts research topics.
Scholarly/Peer Reviewed Journal


Written by experts and specialists in the field.

Often published quarterly or bi-annually.

Researchers, students, and scholars

Written in the language of the discipline; includes data, tables, charts; rarely fewer than 10 pages and often up to 30; includes sections such as: 

  • Introduction or lit. review
  • Methodology
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusions
There will always be a thorough bibliography. These articles provide you with original, empirical research. Study the literature review section and reference list for other relevant articles.
Professional/Trade Journal
Written by professionals and practitioners in the field

Often published weekly or monthly.

Written for people working in a specific field Some advertising; often glossy magazine print; color photography and images Sometimes Locate original research mentioned in the text.
Working Papers/ Conference Proceedings

conference proceedings

Written by experts and specialists in the field. Working papers are published as needed. Conference proceedings are is the published record of a conference, congress, symposium, or other meeting sponsored by a society or association. Researchers, students, and scholars, people working in a specific field Limited or no advertising; writing is academic or formal thorough bibliography These articles represent research in progress. Look for scholarly articles written by the same authors at a later date. 
Magazines and News Sources


Written by journalists, some contributions by field experts Often published daily, weekly, or monthly. Often written for the general public. Glossy magazine print; color photography and images Rarely, if ever Locate original research mentioned in the text.

Government Reports and Websites


Varies, but often written by researchers and government agency staff Varies widely. Sometimes no publication date will be provided. Varies widely, for general public to researchers to policy makers Varies widely; no advertising Sources of information and statistics are provided Use for original data
Blogs, Wikis, and Editorials


May be written by researchers, professionals, or the general public. Varies widely. Sometimes no publication date will be provided. Often written for the general public, but depends on the source. May include advertising, but length and formatting varies Maybe Idea generation; May point to other research

Still can't tell the difference? This resource can help: