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Essay Writing: Sources

The Monroe College Guide to Essay Writing presents the information necessary to write effective essays.

Start with What Type of Articles

Your assignment is to find an article.
What should you do now...?

First, read the Assignment Instructions to find out what type of articles and sources are required for your research.

Which kind of article has your professor asked you to find?

I NEED peer-reviewed article from a scholarly, academic journal: Scholarly Journal articles are:
  • usually published by an academic press or research organization for a scholarly, academic audience
  • must pass peer-review by a panel of experts 
I NEED an article or opinion piece (editorial) from a Newspaper

Newspaper articles:

  • are published for a general public audience (but are not "scholarly" research articles).
  • must pass editorial review (The editorial board of a news provider is not the same as a scholarly peer-review panel.)
  • are usually (but not always) subject to the journalistic code of ethics
  • at the national level, can be reasonably expected to have been fact-checked prior to publication

This short video from the Purdue OWL (Online Writing Lab) discusses how to know if you are looking at a scholarly, peer-reviewed, academic journal article.

Is This Article Scholarly?

Peer-Reviewed Journals

I should use peer-reviewed journals, also referred to as "academic journals" or "scholarly journals" if I want :

  • information on issues of interest only to a narrow audience (scholars, people in a profession).
  • articles written by scholars who have done extensive research.
  • the latest information in a field.
  • a focus on a narrow part of a larger topic.

Here's more information about how and why to use Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles.


I should use an encyclopedia if I want :

  • a short general overview of my topic to scan for background information
  • answers to specific factual questions
  • information written by specialists who know their subject
  • information that does not have to be very current (always check the copyright date)


The library provides access to high-quality, specialized Encyclopedia articles through the CREDO Reference Database.

(Many professors recommend that you start your research by reading an encyclopedia article on your topic to get a good overview of the topic. Not a bad idea!)


I should use a book if I want:

  • in-depth coverage on a particular topic.
  • information written by specialists who have done extensive research
  • information that does not have to be very current (always check the copyright date)
  • information logically and coherently arranged with an index and a table of contents to help me

(You can't go wrong with a good well-researched book on your topic.)

 Find books in MoeCat (the library's catalog).

Finding Newspaper and Website Articles on the Internet

Go to the best source for the type of information that you want.

Some suggested websites:


I should use the Internet if I want :

- information that is really hard to find anywhere else (for example: single-subject websites, like for infographics, or for information on health issues affecting children).

- the very latest information on my topic (but I must always check the dates posted)

- opinions from different people or organizations about my topic (for example, for both sides of many current topics).

- a great variety of information from people, businesses, organizations, and even some reference books.

Be careful to evaluate any websites for quality of the information they offer. In general, non-commercial websites (those ending in .edu or .org. or .gov, for example) will be more informative than commercial (.com) websites.  

(When you use the Internet, you should always try to find out who posted the information and how much they know about the topic. Are they experts in their field, or are they students? Are they giving facts or are they giving their own opinion?)

*Source : Adapted from a guide developed by Connie Zack, Library Media Specialist, Cole Junior High, East Greenwich, RI.