Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Source Types

Books are great for in-depth and background information

stack of books

  • Books provide in-depth information and analysis on a topic
  • Books often give valuable background information on a topic
  • Books can put your topic in context, helping you understand all the pertinent issues 
  • Books lead you to other sources through their bibliographies and references

Getting started with encyclopedias!

Three encyclopedias on top of a table
  • background or introductory information on a topic
  • information about important dates, events, and people related to a topic
  • definitions of relevant terms and terminology
  • bibliographies of further sources to consult on your topic
 

 

The CCC Library has many great print reference books. Remember that encyclopedias are usually about broader topics (such as prisons), so use more general words to search for print encyclopedias (rather than specific ideas like "prison discrimination in California").

Articles aka. Periodicals

Articles are published in periodicals. A periodical is any publication that is issued in regular intervals i.e. annually, quarterly, monthly, weekly, or daily. Newspapers, magazines, journals, newsletters are all periodicals. 
rows of magazines on a display
  • Articles cover events more quickly than in books; they provide the most current, up-to-date information
  • Articles are about very specific subjects, including descriptions of original research
  • Articles are more likely to address local events and topics
  • Periodical articles are more brief and concise than a lengthy book

 

Articles are written for different audiences, which may affect how useful those articles are for your research.

Scholarly articles or academic journals are written by experts in the field like professors and contain more complex, technical language. Some examples would be the New England Journal of Medicine, American Journal of Psychiatry and the International Journal of Computer Engineering Research. Another name for this kind of article is peer-reviewed.

Popular articles like ones from newspapers and popular magazines are written for general audiences and tend to use less complex language and more pictures. Some examples include TimeVogueThe New YorkerNational Geographic and The New Yorker. 

These databases are a good bet to find articles on most research topics.
This is a list of ALL the databases - in other words, collections of articles and other sources - that the CCC Library gives you access to.
Read the descriptions to help you decide which database might be a good place to search for your topic.

Primary sources are written by the first-hand witness of an event

Primary sources are documents, images, recordings, or any other physical objects created during the time period being researched.  They are essential to the study of history because they allow a researcher to get as close as possible to what actually happened during a historical event or time period. 

In the field of History, primary sources include (but are not limited to):

  • Books written during the period for your topic (e.g. during the 1780s)
  • Books written by key participants of an event
  • Published collections of correspondence and other personal writings
  • Memoirs and reprints of primary source material
  • Newspapers from the time (these provide a first rough draft of events)
  • Popular magazines from the time  (news, fashion, sports, etc.)
  • Official government publications from the time
  • Manuscript material such as unpublished letters, diaries and organizational and company records
  • Photographs, drawings, and other images from the time
  • Works of art and artifacts from the time
  • Maps from the time

Secondary sources are created by someone who did not personally experience first-hand or participate in the events or conditions being researched.  Instead secondary sources interpret and analyzes primary sources. 

Some common types of secondary sources in the field of History are:

  • Textbooks
  • Journal articles
  • Histories
  • Criticisms
  • Commentaries
  • Encyclopedias                                                                                                                           

In the sciences, primary (or empirical) research articles:

  • are original scientific reports of new research findings. Please note that an original scientific article does not include review articles, which summarize the research literature on a particular subject, or articles using meta-analyses, which analyze pre-published data.
  • usually include the following sections: IntroductionMethodsResultsDiscussion, References
  • are usually peer-reviewed (examined by expert(s) in the field before publication). Please note that a peer-reviewed article is not the same as a review article, which summarizes the research literature on a particular subject

Cornell University Library

These databases from CCC Library feature many primary sources related to U.S. and world history topics.
These high-quality websites feature collections of primary sources about U.S. and world history.

Use these tips to help locate primary sources on historical people, places, and subjects:

  • Search by author: If your topic is a historical person, try searching for that person as an author. For example, if you want to find letters or speeches written by Frederick Douglass, type "Douglass, Frederick" in the AUTHOR field.
  • Important keywords: Add words like "letters," "correspondence," "diaries," "papers," or "archives" to your search terms. For example searching for "Abraham Lincoln correspondence" will help you find letters written by or to Abraham Lincoln.
  • Limit your search: Some databases allow you to restrict your search to certain types of documents. Look for fields like "Material Type" or "Document Type" where you can ask for particular kinds of documents like letters, manuscripts, or archives. 

Use these tips to identify high-quality information on websites

The Internet is an essential tool for accessing information. While it can be difficult to sift through the vast amounts of information available online, websites and other Internet resources are a great complement to the research you do in the library. 

Why use websites for research?

  • The Internet is available 24 hours a day
  • Websites can be updated very quickly, making online information some of the most current, up-to-date available
  • Many newspapers, magazines, journals, encyclopedias have content available online
  • The Internet contains every kind of media--images, audio, video, etc. 

Keep in mind that anyone can create a website or contribute online content. This is both an amazing and challenging feature of the Internet. It is amazing in that it allows many different voices, including your own, to be heard online; it is challenging because authority can be difficult to determine. Every website must be carefully evaluated for reliability and credibility

The Internet is an essential tool for accessing information. While it can be difficult to sift through the vast amounts of information available online, websites and other Internet resources are a fantastic complement to the research you do in the library. 

Why use websites for research?

  • The Internet is available 24 hours a day
  • Websites can be updated very quickly, making online information some of the most current, up-to-date available
  • Many newspapers, magazines, journals, encyclopedias have content available online
  • The Internet contains every kind of media--images, audio, video, etc. 

Keep in mind that anyone can create a website or contribute online content. This is both an amazing and challenging feature of the Internet. It is amazing in that it allows many different voices, including your own, to be heard online; it is challenging because authority can be difficult to determine. Every website must be carefully evaluated for reliability and credibility

Not all sources of information, whether print or online, are equally valuable or reliable. You want to make sure that any web pages you use are HIGH-QUALITY and contain a lot of good, useful information. There is no way to tell instantly if a web page is high-quality or not. You just need to look at it very, very carefully.

It's helpful to understand the difference between a "web page" and a "web site." When we say "web page," we mean one specific document or article, almost always part of a larger web site. Its URL includes characters after the domain such as .com, .edu, .gov,.org, and so on. Example: a web page containing information on the treatment of cancer, https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment. A web site is the "umbrella" the web pages fit into, and its URL ends with the domain. Example: the National Cancer Institute, https://www.cancer.gov

AUTHORITY
  • Is the author (if identified) an expert in this field? Can you find the author's credentials?
  • Does the organization responsible for the site have any expertise?
  • Look at the URL. What type of domain is it (.com, .edu, .gov,.org or something else)?
  • Is there contact information, and how complete is it?
  • Is there a page describing the purpose of the overall website ("About Us" or similar)?
OBJECTIVITY
  • What is the purpose of the overall web site, or the specific web page: to inform with facts or data; to sell something; to persuade you; or something else? Does it appeal to your brain, or your emotions?
  • If there is a specific point of view, what is it and how does it affect the usefulness of the information?
ACCURACY
  • Can you tell where the information comes from: are the sources for all facts, statistics and graphs clearly stated?
  • Is the information consistent with other sources?
CURRENCY
  • What is the date of the information?
  • If there's no date given, look at the most recent update or copyright date, though that might not apply to your specific page, and check to make sure all links work.
COVERAGE
  • Is the information complete and freely available?
  • Is there enough useful information on your topic for the web page to be helpful?

CCC Library Logo

Research Help (call or text) 510-426-5026

Circulation (books & technology) 510-215-4921

Email a Librarian

Today's Hours