Is this the right source for me?
Not sure if this source is something you can cite in your research? Find your class assignment or research prompt and check the guidelines your teacher has outlined. Then, ask yourself the following questions about your source to see if it’s what you need:
- Primary or secondary? A primary source is an account from a specific time period. If you’re writing a paper about the medieval political system, the surviving pages of Magna Carta would be a primary source. A book written by a medieval studies scholar that describes the importance of Magna Carta would be a secondary sourcethis type of source provides analysis and context.
- Popular or academic? Popular sources are "popular" because they are meant for the general public. Newspapers and magazines are popular sources because they are easy to understand and widely available. Academic sources are more thoroughly reviewed than popular sources. They often undergo a peer review process, have multiple sections, and are generally much longer and more detailed.
- Neutral or biased? Examine the word choices made in your source to determine if it is objective or trying to get across a certain point of view. If it seems to be interpreting facts with a specific agenda or goal in mind, the source may have gone past a specific viewpoint to outright bias.
- Where did this source get its information? Look for a bibliography at the bottom of the work and see what sources were used. If they look credible and trustworthy, not only is your source likely a good one, but you now have a list of other reputable sources you can search for.
The "right" source for you depends on the guidelines your teacher has set for the assignment. If your teacher has asked you to see how an event was covered in newspapers, then neutral, academic sources won’t be the right fit. All sources—whether they are primary or secondary, neutral or biased—can be useful; it all depends on the type of source you need. If you’re not sure what kind of a source you should be looking for, simply ask your teacher.