Research Process

Guide to the research process.

Understanding the Type of Information Needed

Once you have determined the topic for your project, you will need to search for information. There are many types of information sources available for your research. The professor's guidelines and the topic of your research will determine the types of sources that are the most appropriate: books, journals, newspapers, dissertations, websites, and audio or video recordings.

Questions to Consider

  • What kinds of resources may help?
  • Is my topic a current issue, or do I need a historical perspective?
  • Will I need primary or secondary sources?
  • Can I use information gathered from websites, or do I need to use the library's research databases?

Types of Publications

Popular Trade Scholarly
  • Colorful covers
  • Glossy paper
  • Ads
  • Articles on current events
  • General interest
  • Short articles
  • Written by general staff
  • Reviewed by general editor
  • No bibliographies or footnotes
  • Usually called magazines
  • Glossy
  • Ads
  • Articles on industry trends
  • Short articles
  • Written for members of specific industry
  • Written by staff or experts in the field
  • Short or no bibliographies
  • Plain cover, plain paper
  • No ads
  • Primary research, theories, methodologies
  • Lengthy, in-depth articles
  • Written for researchers & professionals
  • Written by experts in the field & researchers
  • Peer reviewed by subject experts
  • Extensive bibliographies & references


Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources

Source Type Examples
Primary: a first-person account by someone who experience or witnessed an event
  • First-person account of an event
  • First publication of a scientific study
  • Speech or lecture
  • Original artwork
  • Handwritten manuscript
  • Letters
  • A diary
Secondary: a secondary source is one step removed from the original source. The author is reexamining, interpreting, and drawing conclusions based on the information that is conveyed in the primary source.
  • A newspaper reporting on a scientific study
  • Review of a music CD or an art show
  • Biography
Tertiary: a tertiary source is further removed from the primary source. It leads a researcher to a secondary source, rather than the primary source.
  • Bibliography
  • Index to articles
  • Library catalog


Source Types

Source Types  Purpose, Contents, & Examples   Books (Examples of books such as The Stone Wall Reader and What To Do When You’re New)  Lengthy discussions of topics. Books often take years to research, write, and then get published. Usually involves an editorial process of review but not for self-publishing.  Scholarly Journals (Examples of journals such as Research in African Literatures, Applied Mathematics, and Language in Society)  Written & reviewed by scholars or experts in the field. Can be challenging to read and understand for non-experts They often reveal trends or developments, & this could include in professions or careers.  Newspapers (Examples of newspapers such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and Journal-News)  Written by professional journalists. Purpose is to keep the public up to date on current events. Most newspapers follow a set of journalistic guidelines to report events  Magazines (Examples of magazines such as Rolling Stone, National Geographic, and The New Yorker)  Written for a general, educated audience rather than for professionals or scholars. Many cover current affairs and politics while other are more about entertainment and human interest.  Trade Journals (Examples of trade journals such as Harvard Business Review, Advertising Age, and American Libraries)  Written by an expert, a professional in the field, or staff writers and reviewed by an editor for style & content. (Not the same as peer-review) Different than scholarly articles because they report updates in a field, not always research  More Source Types  Media: Radio, TV, Videos, Podcasts  Media varies in purpose, content & reliability and should be evaluated!  Government Reports  As government agencies research current issues, they publish their findings and make them available to the public.  Conference Papers  These presentations are written by professionals in a field about a current topic & given at annual events.  Social Media  Social media posts also vary in purpose, content & reliability and should be evaluated!      Created by Jessica Kiebler, Pace University  This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.