An academic library includes a vast array of sources, of all types. Establishing an understanding of the resources available to you will inform your approach to finding books, articles, news reports, data, research studies, etc. Which ones you will need to use depends on the nature of your research. This section will describe some types of sources and explain when you might use them and how you can find them.
Selecting the type of sources for your research can begin with something as simple as tertiary sources (for example, encyclopedias) which provide background information on a particular subject or topic. If you are interested in learning about vaccines, an encyclopedia can provide details about the vaccine’s history (who developed it, where, how long ago, etc). Perhaps the developers of the vaccine, the associated sickness, and the time-period will direct you to books published by those researchers or news reports from publications of that time. Also, the names of the researchers, the companies, and any medical terms mentioned will be valuable pieces of information to collect and use later as “key terms” or keywords.
While tertiary sources are fundamental important to beginning our research, your professor may ask for primary or secondary sources for your assignments. In the next section, we go into further detail about all three types so that you can better understand their individual and special purpose.