The University of Kansas Libraries
Choosing Library Materials
Books [find them]
Books often give more in-depth and varied coverage of a subject as more time is (generally) given to research and writing. Depending upon the publishing time frame, the material may be dated.
POTENTIAL USES: getting an in-depth perspective on a topic for a large research paper/project. You may also want to examine books on your topic that include bibliographies or references.
Journal or Magazine Articles [find
You will probably write at least one paper at KU that involves using articles, either of a scholarly or popular nature.
- Articles in scholarly journals are written by scholars
for the purpose of sharing new research within a particular discipline.
Because of this, specialized terminology or a style particular to the
discipline in question may be used. These articles include reference
lists (works referred to in the paper) or bibliographies (material used
in the research for the paper), which may be of help to your research.
Other terms used to refer to scholarly journals by databases are "peer
reviewed" or "refereed" journals. Examples of scholarly
journals are titles like Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies,
Journal of Southern History, or Journal of Microelectromechanical
POTENTIAL USES: getting an in-depth look at a specific subject, such as "ethical implications of implanting life on other planets;" or "the fuming image: cartoons and public opinion in late republican China." You may also find the bibliographies/references helpful in leading you to additional materials.
- In contrast, popular magazines are written, often
by journalists, with a more general, non-specialist audience in mind.
You might think of titles such as Business Week, Rolling
Stone, or Time as examples of this type of publication.
These sources generally do not include references.
POTENTIAL USES: getting the "big picture" about a topic (looking at news magazine articles to get an idea of the debate about congressional term limits); studying how an issue is presented to the general public (looking at magazines targeted at teenage girls to see how the topic of eating disorders is handled).
Newspapers [find them]
Newspapers provide information about current events. They may also be excellent places to look for editorial/opinion writing on a recent question or issue, or, for feature stories about a community that is of interest to you. The audience for newspapers varies widely. Think, for example, of who reads the Wall Street Journal and who reads the University Daily Kansan and the types of information that these different papers contain.
POTENTIAL USES: getting editorial analysis of current issues; updating your information on an ongoing topic (for example, the war in Bosnia); examining firsthand how the press treats a particular issue, such as a political figure or social topic.
Reference Sources [find
The purpose of reference sources is to help researchers quickly find a piece of information or to lead the researcher to other sources that will answer their question. Examples include dictionaries, almanacs, general and special encyclopedias, bibliographies, atlases, and journal indexes.
POTENTIAL USES: using the Encyclopedia of the American Presidency to get a better understanding of the Kennedy administration's policy towards Vietnam; using the Statistical Abstract of the United States to get a definition of poverty and the estimated number of people in the United States living in poverty for a persuasive speech; learning more about a particular author by using the Dictionary of Literary Biography, which prepares lengthy articles about authors lives and careers and gives you a bibliography of other critical writings about the author or their work.
Remember: library staff are trained to help researchers work with a wide variety of print and electronic resources. Please feel free to ask at the Reference desk for help!