Welcome to Research Skills for Engineering Students module 2, part 1: Types of engineering information.
In this section, you’ll learn how to evaluate and identify different types of sources.
No matter where you get your information, you need to make sure you critically evaluate each source to ensure it’s appropriate for your research! Many publications have a particular bias or agenda, which may not be obvious at first glance.
Here are a few criteria that could help you in your evaluation:Authority
Sources such as magazines, news stories, and blogs are known as popular sources. These aim to inform the general public, and are more informal in tone and scope.
Popular sources can be useful when looking for background or current information on a topic, although they aren’t generally considered scholarly.
There are many different types of popular sources, but in general, these sources:
Some examples of popular engineering sources include:
In general, these sources:
To see the typical components of a scholarly journal article, check out Anatomy of a Scholarly Article from North Carolina State University Libraries.
Welcome to Research Skills for Engineering Students module 2, part 2, types of engineering information. In this section, you’ll continue to learn how to evaluate and identify different types of sources.
Within engineering, primary sources report the findings of original research. They often describe a new theory or the results of experimental work. Examples of primary sources include (but are not limited to):
The ability to identify different types of sources will allow you to place resources you find in context.
The products of new ideas and research are published in primary sources, which are then summarized or evaluated in secondary sources. Because of this, research is often discussed in terms of a cycle - reading about a subject might spark a new idea, thus beginning the research process all over again. Here you can see an engineering research cycle, including where primary and secondary sources fall in the process.
For more information, see Scholarly vs. Popular Sources from UBC Library.
Not all scholarly sources go through a process called peer review.
Peer review is when an article is reviewed by other experts in the field before publication. This helps ensure that a published work is high quality, accurate, informative, and with reduced bias. Sometimes these are also called refereed publications.
But how can you tell if a publication is peer reviewed? There are a few ways to check: