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GEOG 262: Geography of Sport: Types of Sources

For students in Dr. de Socio's class.

Source Type Quick Pick

If you need... Try using...
Expert evidence Scholarly articles, books, and statistical data
Public or individual opinion on an issue Newspapers, magazines, and websites
Basic facts or general topic overview Newspapers, books, encyclopedias, Wikipedia
Eye-witness accounts Newspapers, primary source books, social media (current events)
Info about a very recent topic Websites, newspapers, social media
Local info Newspapers, websites, local government information
Info from professionals working in the field Trade/professional publications, scholarly articles

Scholarly Sources generally refer to peer-reviewed journal articles, but they can also be academic books (or book chapters) or dissertations.

Scholarly journal articles cover very specific topics or narrow fields of research. Academic books typically provide comprehensive, thorough treatment of a subject. Dissertations are the final step for PhD candidates and involve very specific, novel research that advances a given field, but they are not considered "peer-reviewed".

A scholarly publication is one in which the content is written by experts in a particular field of study - generally for the purpose of sharing original research or analyzing others' findings. Scholarly work will thoroughly cite all source materials used and is usually subject to "peer review" prior to publication. This means that independent experts in the field review, or "referee" the publication to check the accuracy and validity of its claims. The primary audience for this sort of work is fellow experts and students studying the field. As a result the content is typically much more sophisticated and advanced than articles found in general magazines, or professional/trade journals. 

In brief, scholarly work is:

  • Written by experts for experts
  • Based on original research or intellectual inquiry
  • Provides citations for all sources used
  • Generally includes sections such as abstract, methodology, data, analysis, and conclusion 
  • Is usually peer-reviewed prior to publication

Popular sources covers a wide range of sources, including newspapers, magazines, and other forms of journalism.

While many of your research projects will require you to read articles published in scholarly journals, books or other peer reviewed source of information, there is also a wealth of information to be found in more popular publications. These aim to inform a wide array of readers about issues of interest and are much more informal in tone and scope. Examples include general news, business and entertainment publications such as Time Magazine, Business Weekly, Vanity Fair.
Special interest publications which are not specifically written for an academic audience are also considered "popular", although they often contain thorough and new research made accessible to an everyday audience. Examples of these titles are National Geographic, Scientific American, Psychology Today.

In brief, popular sources

  • Are written by journalists or professional writers for a general audience.
  • Written in a language that is easy to understand by the general public.
  • Rarely have an extensive bibliography - rather, they are fact-checked through the editorial process of the publication they appear in.
  • Don't assume prior knowledge of a subject area - for this reason, they are often very helpful to read if you don't know a lot about your subject area yet.
  • May contain an argument, opinion, or analysis of an issue.

Trade or Professional sources are generally for practitioners and people working in a particular field. These are more specialized in nature than popular publications, but are not intended to be scholarly. Rather, they communicated the news and trends in that field. Research findings are not typically disseminated here - though they may report that a scholarly publication is forthcoming. These types of publications typically will contain more advertising than a scholarly journal - though it's usually targeted to the field in some way. Articles in trade publications, in most cases are written by practitioners in a field (nurses, teachers, social workers, etc) and use the language (and jargon) of the field.

Many academic books will be edited by an expert or group of experts.  Often, books are a good source for a thorough investigation of a topic.  Unlike a scholarly article, which will usually focus on the results of one research project, a book is likely to include an overview of research or issues related to its topic. 

Rather than using a whole book, you will often read and cite the most relevant book chapter.

Conference Proceedings

Conference proceedings are compilations of papers, research, and information presented at conferences. Proceedings are sometimes peer-reviewed and are often the first publication of research that later appears in a scholarly publication (see above!). Proceedings are more commonly encountered (via databases and other searching) in science and engineering fields that in the arts and humanities.

Government Documents

The Government Printing Office (GPO) disseminates information issued by all three branches of the government to federal depository libraries (including NMSU). Additionally, the many departments of the government publish reports, data, statistics, white papers, consumer information, transcripts of hearings, and more. Some of the information published by government offices is technical and scientific. Other information is meant for the general public.

Primary Sources

Primary sources are contemporary accounts of an event, written by someone who experienced or witnessed the event. For example, diaries, letters, speeches, and photographs can serve as primary sources. Emails, Tweets, and other social media posts can also be used as primary sources. In the sciences, primary sources are documents about original research written by the original researchers themselves. Primary sources can also include raw data, an artifact from an archeological dig, or a newspaper article written soon after an event took place. In literature or art history, the work of art, novel, poem, or play is the primary source that is used for analysis or further intellectual inquiry.