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Tackling Information Problems (TIP): Determine what kind of information you need

Information Literacy tutorial for undergraduate students

Determine what kind of information you need

students looking for booksInformation is available in a wide variety of formats, such as newspapers, audiovisual media, blogs, newpapers, books, articles from periodicals (such as trade journals, academic journals, and magazines), conference proceedings, research reports, and so on.

The kind of information you need to find for your paper depends entirely on the research question you're trying to answer. Of course writing a university-level paper means using mainly scholarly articles and books, but perhaps you need financial or other data as well.

Consider the following:

  • What type of information do you want?
    Scholarly articles, books, trade journal articles, working papers, newspaper articles, conference proceedings, statistical information, financial information, legal materials? This might influence your choice of database.
    • If you want scholarly articles: what type of studies are you looking for?
      - Empirical studies?
      - Review articles?
      - Theoretical articles? 
      - Systematic reviews?
      - Meta analyses?
      - Clinical trials?
      - Qualitative studies?
  • What range of years do you want?
    Be careful how you limit the range of years you include in your search - choose your date range based on well-considered reasons.
    For example:
    •  a highly cited review article was published in 2016 that covered research through 2012;
    • a change in testing guidelines in 2010 made research prior to 2010 not relevant.
  • What languages do you want to include? 
    If you read only Dutch and English, then limit to only these two languages. 
  • Do you want information about a specific geographic region?

Characteristics of scholarly information

Most important publication types:

  •  Articles in scholarly (=academic) journals
  •  Books

To be found:

  • in/via the library (hard copy or online in library databases)
  • on the internet (for example, with Google Scholar)

Scholarly articles: features

  • Author is from a university or research institute
  • Published in an academic journal
  • ‘Peer reviewed’
  • Specialized terminology
  • Structure (research article): abstract, introduction, method, results, discussion, references

To see the typical components of a scholarly journal article check out the resource Anatomy of a Scholarly Article
by North Carolina State University. Click on the highlighted areas of the article to learn more about the component in question.