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ENGL 112: English Composition - Carlson

Finding Articles

For national & international news:

For a local or regional news:

Primary Research Articles

As you select sources for your bibliography you will want a mixture of primarily primary or secondary sources to support your research.

Primary Sources will provide the most important raw data that you are using to support your claim. Different types of sources may be considered primary for different fields. For instance, in history, historical documents, newspapers reports, even clothing might be considered primary sources. In other fields such as sciences and social sciences peer reviewed research articles that provide raw data to help explore a hypothesis will frequently be considered your primary sources for your paper.

Secondary Sources use other people’s data to solve research problems. For instance, a book that looks at research on a vegan diet, might be considered a secondary source because it uses many other resources and primary data to support its hypothesis. A literature review on the use of various discipline methods in a classroom would be a secondary source because it synthesizes many viewpoints on a topic. A critical analysis of performances of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, would be a secondary source because it is building on the primary source – Much Ado About Nothing.

Secondary sources should be used more sparingly and only when you cannot find a primary source to support your claim. 

For many of you in this class, your peer-reviewed research articles will be your primary sources for your topic. For others of you in fields such as history, philosophy, literature, and religion, your primary sources may be books, journals, the Bible, newspapers, etc. And your research articles will be your secondary sources.

Regardless of whether they serve as a primary or secondary source, your paper will need research based articles from Peer Reviewed Academic Journals as a part of your bibliography. Sometimes your secondary articles will lead you to additional research.

Research Articles typically come in one of the following four categories. As you select your articles consider which category it may fall into.

  • Research Reports - Data from original empirical or scientific results – contributes to theory, research, or practice
  • Practice - Assessment of methods, applications, strategies
  • Technical Reports - Significant advances of methods, practices, and techniques
  • Literature Reviews - Surveys of what is known about a topic



  • Is there bias? Only one view presented?
  • What type of article is it?
  • Reports a scientific study (e.g. research article)?
  • Compares many studies (e.g. review article)?
  • An opinion piece or a “how to” article? (e.g. editorial, professional article)?
  • A news or popular press article?
  • Is there a bibliography? Is it extensive?
  • Does the information match what you learned in your books or other articles?
  • Check author’s authority (does article indicate their academic degrees or affiliations; Google the author.
  • Is it from a scholarly journal? (you selected peer-review in the databases; or you can look up the journal’s webpage on Google; or analyze the elements of the article).
  • Search title in Google Scholar (link on library page under Articles tab) to see how often it has been cited?
  • What does the abstract tell you?
  • Check the Results, Discussion or Conclusions section of the article. How does it relate to your topic?
  • Is the article broad enough for your paper?  Or is it only touching on a narrow aspect that doesn’t apply?
  • Full access to article (full text, print, interlibrary loan)?

Types of Periodical Literature

Different types of Periodical Literature can be found in our databases and will vary in terms of purpose, accuracy, and authority. Some periodical literature is written for a wide audience; other forms are written for a very specific audience who have a unique interest in a particular area of study. The more general a periodical, usually the less authoritative it will be. The more specific or academic the article, typically the greater its authority.

Most periodical literature can be separated into Nonscholarly press and Scholarly press. Nonscholarly press includes things like newspapers, popular magazines, and trade & professional magazines. Scholarly press includes academic journals, including peer-reviewed journals, and most articles will be research backed in some form or another.


Newspapers – examples: Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Walla Walla Union Bulletin. Newspapers are written by staff writers or associated press writers. They try to report facts accurately, but may be under a time crunch. Newspapers can have a bias that trickles down from the publisher/owner of the paper, that is informed by the advertising that uses it, or within editorial pieces.

Popular Magazines – examples: People Weekly, National Review. Like newspapers these are usually written by staff writers or associated press writers. They can have longer more researched pieces, but also include editorials and may be written with a time-crunch. Popular magazines will frequently have longer pieces about topics of current conversation or concern so they can be a good way to find a research topic, or if you are researching the history of a topic, to find out what popular opinion was on the topic at a particular point in time.

Trade/Professional Magazines – examples: Psychology Today, Science News, Publisher’s Weekly. The most authoritative of the nonscholarly press, the trade and professional magazines provide news to a particular trade or community, as well as articles of interest and reviews of current research to that community.


Scholarly Journals – examples: Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Death Studies, Journal of applied Mathematics & Computing. Scholarly journals may include Peer Reviewed publications as well as non-Peer Reviewed publications. Scholarly journals tend to fall into one of three types: (1) Research, (2) Theoretical, & (3) Applied/Practical. Research journals focus primarily on reporting research done in a particular area. Theoretical journals look at theory and ideas in an area of study, and applied or practical journals focus in on the practice of a particular discipline such as nursing, or teaching.

How do you tell the difference between scholarly and nonscholarly press? Google the journal to find its website. Consider the information on the publisher's website as well as the information in the article itself as you answer the following questions: 

  1. Who is the audience for the journal?
  2. Is it peer-reviewed?
  3. What is the subject matter of the periodical?
  4. Is there a lot of advertisement?
  5. Are there references & bibliographies provided? If so is it small, or is it extensive?
  6. Has this article been cited and if so – how many times?