Chapter 4: Evaluating Information

4.2 Formats

Certain formats tend to be used for specific purposes. Because of this, many instructors will tell you exactly what types and formats to use (or avoid) for research assignments. Alternatively, they may tell you to use only peer-reviewed sources without specifying a format. Review your assignment requirements and select sources that meet those requirements. Here are some examples of formats you may encounter during your research.


Books tend to be much longer and, because of this, they can go into greater depth than articles. Books are great sources for providing a “big picture” perspective of a topic with background information and rich detail.

Book chapters

In a scholarly context, book chapters are typically research papers on a certain topic or theme that were written by different authors and brought together in a single book. Often there is an editor of the book who solicits and compiles chapter submissions. Many disciplines in the humanities and social sciences rely on book chapters for communicating their research findings and learning about their peers’ work.

Newspaper and magazine articles

Newspaper and magazine articles tend to be brief and to the point. They’re intended to keep us current with events and popular topics, and rarely go in depth or provide sources for further reading. Newspaper articles are a common example of a primary source, which we’ll discuss in the next section.

Conference proceedings

Conference proceedings are the compiled presentations and papers published after a scholarly or professional organization’s conference is over. This is done so there is a lasting record of the research ideas that were shared at the event. Some academic disciplines rely heavily on scholarly conferences as a means of quickly sharing and discussing new research and creative contributions by scholars in that subject area.

Journal articles

Journals are publications typically focused on a particular topic or professional activity, such as the American  Journal of Nursing or the Journal of Economic Perspectives. Journals are published on an ongoing basis at regular intervals. Journal articles are written by subject experts in that field (ie nursing or economics) and each paper is very focused on specific aspects of a larger topic or research project. In the course of your studies, your instructor may tell you to use “peer-reviewed journals” or “scholarly articles” in a writing assignment. Most of the time, what your instructor means is that you need to use individual articles published in a peer-reviewed journal.




More depth and provides a bigger picture of the topic May be out of date

News and Magazine Articles

Brief and to the point; up-to-date and useful for current events Less depth or background on topic;

Conference Proceedings

Provides access to new research; contributed by researchers Not useful for a general or broad overview of a topic

Journal Articles

Written by experts on the subject; peer-reviewed Very specific focus; not useful for a general or broad overview of a topic

Check your understanding


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