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SLS 1106 - Dale Mabry Campus: Types of Library Sources

A library guide for success in SLS 1106 First Year Experience - and beyond.

Types of Information Sources Usually Found in a Library





Cover of an issue of National Geographic issue


contain articles and images about diverse topics of popular interest and current events. Usually, these articles are written by journalists or scholars and are geared toward the average adult. Magazines may cover very "serious" material, but to find consistent scholarly information, you should use journals.

to find information or opinions about popular culture

to find up-to-date information about current events

to find general articles for people who are not necessarily specialists about the topic

» National Geographic

» Ebony

» Sports Illustrated

» People

Cover of the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology


contain articles usually written by scholars in an academic or professional field. An editorial board of experts in the field reviews articles to decide whether they should be accepted (this process is known as "peer review"). Articles in journals can cover very specific topics or narrow fields of research.

» when doing scholarly research to find out what has been studied on your topic

» to find bibliographies that point to other relevant research

» Journal of Communication

» Current History: A Journal of Contemporary World Affairs

» Journal of Professional Nursing

» Journal of Humanistic Psychology


contain articles about current events usually published daily. Since there is at least one in every city, newspapers are great sources for local information. Newspapers also provide primary reporting .

» to find current information about international, national and local events

» to find editorials, commentaries, expert or popular opinions

» New York Times

» Tampa Bay Times

» USA Today

Cover of Police Magazine

Trade Publications

similar to magazines; contain articles written by and for professionals within an industry or career field. They provide very specific information about current trends and topics in the field.

» for an insider's perspective on current issues within an industry or field

» The National Culinary Review

» OfficePro Magazine

» ACCESS Magazine (American Dental Hygienists Association)

screen grab of a library database search interface

Library databases

are online collections of full text (entire article online) articles—and/or citations or abstracts (brief summaries)—of articles from magazines, journals, and newspapers. Many databases also include audiovisual content, such as videos, images, audio clips, podcasts, and more. eBooks and eBook chapters are also in databases.

» to find material about your topic from articles, audiovisual content, or eBooks

Databases A-Z

» Academic Search Complete (a general database)

» CINAHL Plus Full Text (a nursing database)

» Business Insights: Essentials (a business database)


Screen shot of Primo - HCC Libraries discovery search catalog

Library catalog discovery search

is an organized and searchable set of records of physical books in the library—as well as links to online eBooks, periodical articles, streaming videos, audio clips, and more—pulled from individual databases. The HCC library catalog can be found on the HCC Libraries home page. The catalog will point you to the location of a particular source, or group of sources, that the library owns on your topic.

» to find out what items the library owns on your topic

» to find where a specific item is located in the library


cover virtually any topic, fact or fiction. For research purposes, you will probably be looking for books that synthesize information on a topic to support a particular argument or thesis.

Libraries organize and store their hardcopy books using a system the groups similar books together by topic. Each book has a label on the spine with an alphanumeric code, known as the call number, that functions as the book's "address."

» when looking for lots of information on a topic

» to put your topic in context with other important issues

» to find historical information to find summaries of research to support an argument


are collections of concise, factual entries, often written by different contributors who are knowledgeable about the topic. Their overt purpose is to provide background information rather than support a thesis. 

There are two types of encyclopedias: general and subject. General encyclopedias provide concise overviews on a wide variety of topics. Subject encyclopedias contain in-depth entries focusing on one field of study.


» when looking for background information on a topic

» when trying to find key ideas, important dates or concepts

» Encyclopedias are available in hardcopy in the library or online as eBooks in the library catalog. Many database searches will bring up encyclopedia articles as well as journal, magazine and newspaper articles. 

» Britannica Academic (general encyclopedia / searchable online database)

» Genetics and Genetic conditions - Salem Health (subject encyclopedia found online as an eBook)

The Web

allows you to access most types of information on the Internet through a browser. One of the main features of the Web is the ability to quickly link to other related information. The Web contains information beyond plain text, including sounds, images, and video.

The important thing to do when using information on the Internet is to know how to evaluate it!

» to find current information

» to find information about companies

» to find information from all levels of government - federal to local

» to find both expert and popular opinions

» to find information about hobbies and personal interests

» (The Library of Congress)

» (a wiki - here is a definition of a wiki)

» (Hillsborough Community College)

Adapted with permission from University Libraries at Virginia Tech.