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Library Research Tutorial - The Basics

This tutorial will guide you through the basics of research using the library and beyond



Identify different types of information, their characteristics, and purpose to help select your research wisely. 

What Exactly Am I Looking At?

There are so many different types of resources! 

For example, a government website is different than a blog; we use Twitter for other reasons than Instagram; newspapers are not books; scholarly articles are unlike articles in a magazine like National Geographic. Each type of information has a different purpose. 

Understanding the difference between different types of information is your first step to determining what information is appropriate to use for a research assignment. Knowing the difference will help you determine what to use and what NOT to use, or what is "good" and NOT so good for a research paper. 

When you are asked to find articles using the library, what kind of articles should you choose? 

Watch this video and pay attention to the difference between Scholarly (Peer-Review), Trade, and Popular articles. Being able to identify the type of resource you are looking at will help you understand what's appropriate to use in an academic paper. 

The section after the video is a more exhaustive description of the types of information available, Or, check out our Resource Type Tip Sheet.

Resource Types & Common Characteristics

Resource Type

Common Characteristics

Popular Magazine Article

(online or in print)

  • Audience: nonprofessional; anyone
  • Appearance: glossy photos, many advertisements
  • Content: general interest articles, no reference lists, simple language
  • Authors: largely staff writers, often unknown
  • Examples: Sports Illustrated, National Geographic, Maclean’s,
    Men’s Health, Cosmopolitan

Scholarly, Peer Reviewed Journal Article

(online or in print)

  • Audience: professionals, researchers, academics
  • Appearance: no advertisements, plain, black & white
  • Content: original research, literature reviews, often contain abstracts, academic/professional language, often contain statistics/diagrams, long reference lists, peer-reviewed, academic
  • Authors: many authors, with many credentials and affiliations
  • Examples: Journal of Advanced Nursing, Journal of Applied Research, Journal of Food Safety

Trade Magazine/
Journal Article

(online or in print)

  • Audience: industry professionals, organization/association members
  • Appearance: glossy photos, most advertisements related to industry
  • Content: current industry trends, new products or techniques, organizational news, articles may have short reference list, may contain professional language
  • Authors: industry professionals, organization/association members
  • Examples: Advertising Age, Women’s Wear Daily, The Police Chief, Canadian Nurse


(online or in print)

  • Audience: varies
  • Content: varies
  • Authors: vary in credentials, sometimes difficult to identify

Publication and Information

(online or in print)

  • Content: published and written by an association or a government, often includes country-specific data and statistics
  • Authors: government workers, association members
  • Examples: Health Canada, Statistics Canada, Ministry of Natural Resources, Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario


 (online [eBook] or in print)

  • Authors: vary in credentials
  • Content: varies

Newspaper Article

(online or in print)

  • Audience: nonprofessional; anyone
  • Content: current, journalistic, simple language, no reference list
  • Authors: Writers/Journalists
  • Examples: Toronto Star, The Guardian, the New York Times