Outcome: Types of Reading Material

Evaluate various types of reading materials

Information can come from virtually anywhere — media, blogs, personal experiences, books, journal and magazine articles, expert opinions, encyclopedias, and web pages. Look at the table below examining different sources of information. Notice the similarities between them. 





MagazineMagazine rack. Titles visible include House & Garden, The World of Interiors, Homes & Gardens, Period Living.

A magazine is a collection of articles and images about diverse topics of popular interest and current events. Usually these articles are written by journalists or scholars and are geared toward the average adult. Magazines may cover very “serious” material, but to find consistent scholarly information, you should use journals.

  • to find information or opinions about popular culture
  • to find up-to-date information about current events
  • to find general articles for people who are not necessarily specialists about the topic
  • National Geographic
  • Ebony
  • Sports Illustrated
  • People

Academic journalPaperbound journals on a library shelf

A journal is a collection of articles usually written by scholars in an academic or professional field. An editorial board reviews articles to decide whether they should be accepted. Articles in journals can cover very specific topics or narrow fields of research.

  • when doing scholarly research
  • to find out what has been studied on your topic
  • to find bibliographies that point to other relevant research
  • Journal of Communication
  • The Historian
  • Journal of the American Medical Association
  • Lancet

DatabaseWoman sitting at a computer in a library

A database contains citations of articles in magazines, journals, and newspapers. They may also contain citations to podcasts, blogs, videos, and other media types. Some databases contain abstracts or brief summaries of the articles, while other databases contain complete, full-text articles.

  • when you want to find articles on your topic in magazines, journals or newspapers
  • Academic Search Complete (a general database)
  • Compendex (an engineering database)
  • ABI/Inform (a business database)

NewspapersFolded newspapers in a pile

A newspaper is a collection of articles about current events usually published daily. Since there is at least one in every city, it is a great source for local information.

  • to find current information about international, national and local events
  • to find editorials, commentaries, expert or popular opinions
  • Roanoke Times
  • New York Times
  • Suddeutsche Zeitung

BooksHard-back books arranged on a shelf

Books cover virtually any topic, fact or fiction. For research purposes, you will probably be looking for books that synthesize all the information on one topic to support a particular argument or thesis.

  • when looking for lots of information on a topic
  • to put your topic in context with other important issues
  • to find historical information
  • to find summaries of research to support an argument
  • Nash, Gary B. ed. The American People: Creating a Nation and a Society, 1990.
  • Silverstone, Roger, ed.Visions of Suburbia,1997.
  • Smith, J. T.Roman Villas: A Study in Social Structure, 1997

EncyclopediaImage of World Book encyclopedias on a library shelf

Encyclopedias are collections of short, factual entries often written by different contributors who are knowledgeable about the topic. 

There are two types of encyclopedias: general and subject. General encyclopedias provide concise overviews on a wide variety of topics. Subject encyclopedias contain in-depth entries focusing on one field of study.

  • when looking for background information on a topic
  • when trying to find key ideas, important dates or concepts
  • African-American Encyclopedia(subject encyclopedia)
  • Encyclopedia Americana(general encyclopedia)
  • World Book(general encyclopedia found online)
  • Gale encyclopedia of genetic disorders(subject encyclopedia found online)

Web siteclose-up of address bar of web browser, showing "http://www."

The Web allows you to access most types of information on the Internet through a browser. One of the main features of the Web is the ability to quickly link to other related information. The Web contains information beyond plain text, including sounds, images, and video.

The important thing to do when using information on the Internet is to know how to evaluate it!

  • to find current information
  • to find information about companies
  • to find information from all levels of government – federal to local
  • to find both expert and popular opinions
  • to find information about hobbies and personal interests

What You Will Learn To Do

  • evaluate various forms of writing, from various sources
  • evaluate distinguishing characteristics of journalism, literature, nonfiction, and academic texts