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Essential Research Skills for Workplace Writing

This tutorial is a basic introduction to doing effective and credible research for a variety of purposes and audiences

Learning Objective #3

 

 

Identify different types of information, their characteristics, and purpose to help select the right kinds of resources

for your research task. 

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 your specific research task. Knowing the difference will help you determine what to use and what NOT to use, or what is credible or NOT so credible for a particular research project. 


Not all articles are created equal when it comes to depth and credibility of the information. If you are asked to find information credible enough for professional-level research 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 a given context. 

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)

See an example

  • 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)

See an example

  • 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)

See an example

  • 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

Website/Blog

(online or in print)

See an example

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

Government
Publication and Information

(online or in print)

See an example

  • Content: published and written by a government; often includes country-specific data and statistics
  • Authors: government workers and consultants
  • Examples: Health Canada, Statistics Canada, Ministry of Natural Resources, 

Non-Governmental Organization

Publication and Information

(online or in print)

See an example

  • Content: topics and data related to the organization's mandate and area of focus 
  • Authors: organization members and employees, associated researchers and consultants
  • Examples: Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, The United Way, The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

Books

 (online [eBook] or in print)

See an example

  • Authors: vary in credentials
  • Content: varies

 Reference Source

(online or in print)

See an example

  • Authors: vary in credentials
  • Content: varies--can be general or subject-specific
  • Examples: Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Wikipedia, The Columbia Encyclopedia

Newspaper Article

(online or in print)

See an example

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