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GEO 3200: Human Impacts on the Environment - Research Forum

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Types of Sources
Information is available to us in many forms:

- magazines
- newspapers
- scholarly journals
- trade publications
- agency reports
- books

... to name a few of the more common sources.

What is the difference between these resources?

Magazine and newspapers are written for the lay person (that is, someone who has a general interest in a topic and wants to learn more). Articles from these sources tend to be relatively short and may include fun pictures and catchy titles that make you want to read more. Magazines tend to be published weekly or monthly. They include content on popular culture (e.g. People or Ebony), news (e.g. Time or Newsweek), sports (e.g. Sports Illustrated or Field & Stream), science (e.g. National Geographic or Discovery), or other subjects. Newspapers tend to be published daily or weekly and report on local, regional, and global events. The local newspaper is the Journal Gazette & Times Courier; we also have access to the Chicago Tribune and the New York Times, among other newspapers.

Scholarly journal articles are written by university professors and researchers with reputable credentials. These are people who do research in the field on which they write. Scholarly journal articles tend to be lengthier (~7-10 pages), include more complex language, more descriptive images, charts, or graphs (and fewer pictures), and have titles that describe what the article is about. Scholarly articles are peer-reviewed, which means the articles are edited by other scientists or researchers with a similar level of credentials and expertise on the subject matter. Scholarly articles may be accepted or rejected for publication based on the quality of work being presented. The peer review process lends a higher level of credibility to articles being published. Some examples of scholarly journals in the field of geography include Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Progress in Physical Geography, Journal of Cultural Geography and Physical Geography. Broadly speaking, a scholarly article may be classified either as an original research article or a review article (although there are other types of scholarly articles). Original research articles present the findings of an experiment performed by the author(s) of the article and include sections for methods, results, and discussion. Review articles provide a general overview of a topic and summarize recent, relevant, and landmark articles that have been published on a given subject. Reading a review article is a relatively fast way to gain an understanding of the literature published and research being conducted in a specified field.

Trade publications and agency reports tend to be written for a more selective audience than magazine or newspaper articles. These types of sources are produced by people or groups within a given industry or organization. An example of a trade publication is Farmers Weekly or Chemical & Engineering News. Agency reports may be published by government (e.g. the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) or private institutions (e.g. the Natural Resources Defense Council or the National Wildlife Federation).

Books may be written for a lay or scholarly audience. Popular science books help to explain complex environmental (and other) issues to those without a deep level of knowledge about the topic (a lay audience). Scholarly books are written for those who conduct research in the discipline. Scholarly books sometimes include a number of articles collocated (put together) in one volume for easy access to a given subject. Examples of popular science books are Rebuilding the Foodshed and The Omnivore's Dilemma -- note the catchy, easy-to-read chapter titles. One scholarly book on the topic is Imagining Sustainable Food Systems -- note the more descriptive chapter titles and each chapter is written by a different author.
Locating General Audience Materials
Sometimes the articles you read in magazines, newspapers, or other "general audience" sources refer to a scholarly article or report that has been recently published. It is a helpful skill to be able to find the scholarly article that has been mentioned in the general audience reading source, in order to gain a better understanding of the science being referenced.

How do you find these general audience materials?

You may hear a story on National Public Radio's Science Friday, read a news article from the BBC Science, or watch an episode of The Daily Show.

For the sake of this assignment, we will be searching in library databases to locate general audience sources.

To find magazine articles, start in:
- Academic Search Complete and add to your search:
- GreenFile.

Identify key words to search. You may also try searching synonyms and related terms to help broaden your search, if needed.

Limit your results to include only magazine articles. You may choose to include only the past few years of published articles.

Review articles may be found in the above-selected databases. Instead of limiting to Magazines, limit to Academic Journals. Add the term "review" to your search. See screenshot below for additional guidance. Look at the article abstract to ensure it is reviewing research and not presenting original research -- we do not want original research articles at this point.

To find newspaper articles, use Lexis-Nexis. Use the search box on the bottom left of the page (we only want to find newspaper articles, not legal or business information).

To find agency reports, navigate to the desired agency's website and look for the Publications or Media section. Some links are provided in the Types of Sources box above.

You may also search the EIU Online Catalog to find a popular science book on the topic you chose. There is no easy way to limit your results to the popular literature. Within the book's record, look at the summary in the More Details tab, as well as the Table of Contents. Use the search box below to link into a book search.

EIU Online Catalog Search
Results will display in a new window
Locating Primary Source Materials
If the general audience material you are using refers to the journal name in which the primary source article (i.e. original research article) was published, look up the journal using our A-Z journal list. If Booth Library subscribes to the journal, you may link into the journal and search its contents using relevant keywords and author names (if given).

Another way to locate your primary source article is by using Google Scholar. Use the advanced search to add more specific elements (like journal name and publication year) to your search.

Ask a Librarian
Need more help with your research?

Kirstin Duffin is the subject librarian for Geography. Email her at kduffin {@}

Reference librarians are available in person, via the phone, or by chat. Ask a Librarian for assistance.