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CAL 103: Writing and Communication

This guide will help CAL 103 students get started with their research.

Background Information: Reference

If you don't know much about your topic, check a reference work like Wikipedia or Britannica Online or the dictionaries, encyclopedias, and guidebooks found in the Gale Virtual Reference Library. This can be a handy way to start learning about the different issues within your topic to see which of those interest you enough to write about them.

Background Information: Newspapers and Primary Sources

How has your topic been discussed in the news? You can find current newspapers in the databases below, or if you'd like to see the history of the subject as shown through the news, check the New York Times Historical.

What to Look For: Source Types

Information can be found in all sorts of packaging. Each package - book, journal article, blog post, etc. - is defined by its characteristics, and is suitable for some information needs but not others. Everything can be useful! It just depends on the context in which you'll be using it, and, of course, what your assignment requires.


  • Good for: broad coverage of a topic
  • Scholarly books (monographs) have bibliographies; follow up to check the info and find additional sources
  • How old is it? Check the publication date to see if the information is still current or is more of historical value
  • Where to find them: Library Catalog


Scholarly Journals Image result for potato research journal

  • Good for: close study of a subfield and the research done within. Can be considered a trade journal if you work in that field and you need to keep up with trends
  • Peer-reviewed: Journal articles are reviewed & evaluated by other experts prior to acceptance and publication
  • Articles: in-depth original research, or an overview and analysis of research done on a particular topic
    • Very useful bibliographies/reference lists!
  • Discipline-specific, technical jargon geared to scholars and students in the field
  • Where to find them: OneSearch (or Journal Finder if you're looking for one in particular)

Conference Papers and ProceedingsImage result for potato research conference

  • Good for: Ground-breaking research in a field or subfield
  • Papers presented at a formal gathering of peers
  • Papers later published in the conference proceedings
  • Where to find them: OneSearch


Newspapers Image result for potato newspaper

  • Good for: Historical evolution of an issue as reflected in the news, current events, popular analysis of trends
  • Primary source material!
  • Company research: product development, industry news, and company histories
  • Few or no cited sources
  • Where to find them: Newspapers (or Journal Finder if you're looking for one in particular)

Popular MagazinesImage result for potato travel magazine

  • Good for: Popular discussion of issues and trends, historical evolution of an issue as reflected in the news
  • Brief information on diverse, broad general-interest topics
  • Entertainment, leisure reading
  • Can include investigative journalism
  • Few or no cited sources, no bibliographies/reference lists
  • Where to find them: OneSearch (or Journal Finder if you're looking for one in particular)


Encyclopedias and Handbooks Image result for potato science book

  • Good for: Concise overviews of a variety of topics, background information on a topic
  • Where to find them: OneSearch


Trade Publications Image result for potato magazine

  • Good for: Discussion of an issue or product by people in the field
  • Articles and advertisements are intended to be useful for people who work within a specific industry.
  • Articles are often written by people with expertise in a specific field or profession
  • Publications are sometimes published by a specific trade association or professional association
  • Articles can include information about news and trends in the industry, professional development opportunities, and upcoming conferences
  • Where to find them: OneSearch (or Journal Finder if you're looking for one in particular)


Blog Posts and Social MediaImage result for twitter

  • Good for: Discussion of current issues on a more casual level; blog posts can be very in-depth
  • Can be written by anybody, credentialed or not
  • Hashtags can trace the progress of a particular issue
  • Blog posts may or may not include reference list
  • Must be very carefully evaluated to ensure quality. Even the bad ones can be used in your research depending on the context, but understand who is writing and why they wrote it
  • Where to find them: The Internet


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