TYPES OF SOURCES

Regarding the previous discussion, following are listed some typology of sources.

(a) Scholarly sources

This type of sources includes:

  • Academic or research-based journals,
  • Research monographs,
  • College/University textbooks, and
  • Anthologies of essays on academic disciplines.

Most of the scholarly journals are published by universities or professional bodies, while most of the scholarly books are published by publishers specializing in intense and genuine work. These sources are written in language specific to their discipline, and are always cited by their own sources. Writers of such sources always aim to make their assumptions explicit and clear, to persuade the readers with logical and systematic reasoning rather than emotive appeals or generalizations. The audience for such documents is peers, and students being initiated into the conventions and language expectations of the discipline. As a result, the style and terminology of these sources becomes uneasy or obvious for outsiders. Scholarly sources are the most authoritative, as their writers usually have a professional commitment in keeping constant debates, along with acknowledging and building on the previously received knowledge.

(b) Specialist sources

This type of sources includes:

  • Science magazines,
  • Technology and social topics, and
  • Serious non-fictions, like popular science, etc.

Such type of sources/documents generally aims to inform a non-specialist public about the technical topics in an accessible way, thereby publicizing or popularizing the otherwise discouraging or extra complex concepts. The audience of this type of sources is intended to be an educated and informed reader, who has little expertise on the concerned topic, but has a eagerness to acquire new knowledge; consequently, with a longer attention span than a reader of lower-level documents. Writers of such sources attempt to entertain as well as inform, therefore they are likely to rely more on analogy, metaphor and dramatization than the writers of scholarly sources. However, they do cite sources, even though the technique of integrating these in the text is often different from that in scholarly documents, which use formal referencing styles. Serious non-fiction works often uses similar techniques of referencing as scholarly works. Contrastingly, Specialist magazine articles name their researchers and professional positions in the body of the articles, rather than mentioning them in endnotes or end-of-text references. Moreover, in magazines of this type, the role of visuals becomes important with attention paid to aesthetics of layout and design. Specialist sources are overall an excellent source of information on a rather superficial level. If more depth or analysis is needed, such documents can refer you to the original, more formal sources.

(c) Public sources

This type of sources includes:

  • Governmental documents,
  • Corporate/legal documents, like public statements issued by government agencies, and
  • Corporate information found on organizational websites and in public relations material.

Such types of sources are usually addressed to the general public, the language is clear and unambiguous, and concepts are made as simple as possible. This is especially employed in the governmental and business documents, since the establishment of the Plain English campaign emphasized reader-based aspects of communication, and thus propounded a direct and informal approach to public writing. Documents belonging to this category of sources tend to assume a low attention span, and therefore do not expand on a topic more than is necessary to get their point across. Many have a promotional edge, even when they are not selling a product, they support the issuing organization’s interests; for example, as happens with press releases. Public sources/documents are usually a good source of facts about a corporation or government policy, but they should always be read critically, and interpreted according to the requirements of a specific project. This category includes local newspapers and non-specialized, general interest magazines, as they too address the general public, aiming to appeal to the low common denominator of a community’s interests and sensibilities.

(d) Sensationalist sources

This type of sources bases its information on rumor, fabrication or exaggeration, rather than on any form of empirical or interpretative research. Therefore, these are the least credible type of sources. In fact, they should not be considered as sources of research at all, unless you use them as examples of the distortion of information in the popularization of knowledge. Many popular magazines and newspapers fall into this category, regarding their appeal to thrill and sensation as opposed to any form of truth or reflection. These sources thus appeal to the innocent and entertaining tendencies of their readership.


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