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Management Program: Good vs. Bad Sources

Unacceptable Sources

Some types of resources are NOT acceptable to cite in your research papers. These include:

  • blogs
  • consultant sites
  • online encyclopedias (eg. Wikipedia)
  • general online dictionaries
  • local newspapers
  • YouTube

As with most things, there can be exceptions to the rules. For example, it might be acceptable to use subject specific dictionaries for term definitions. Also, newspaper articles from reputable publications such as the New York Times or Washington Post might be acceptable sources depending on your topic, but articles from local newspapers such as the Houston Chronicle or Marshall Independent are not.

If you are ever unsure whether or not something is an acceptable source, ask your professor or a librarian.

Types of Journals and Periodicals

This chart provides descriptions of various types of periodicals and journals. For graduate research, you'll want to focus primarily on scholarly/peer-reviewed articles. Being able to recognize alternate forms of articles is an important aspect of the research process.

Types of Publications

  Scholarly/ Peer Reviewed Journals Professional/ Trade Journals Commentary/ Opinion Journals Popular Magazines Newspapers
Examples  American Journal of Sociology
 Journal of Experimental Psychology
American Teacher
Science News
Mother Jones
National Review
New Republic
New York Times
Primary Use or Value  Original research Current trends, professional news, company information Social & political commentary & analysis, political viewpoints Entertainment, current events, hot topics, popular culture  Current news, local & regional information, classified ads
Language Academic, technical Written for practitioners. Can use jargon extensively Most written for a generally educated audience Non-technical language  Non-technical, written for a general audience
Authors Researchers, academics, professors, scholars Professionals in the field or journalists with subject expertise Variable: academics, journalists, spokespersons for "groups" Mainly journalists, occasionally freelance journalists  Journalists
Source Citations Footnotes, bibliographies. Often extensive documentation Occasional brief bibliographies. Some sources cited in text Occasionally cite sources in text or bibliographies Rarely cite any sources Rarely cite sources in full
Publisher Universities, scholarly presses, or academic/ research organizations Commercial publishers or professional/ trade associations Commercial publishers or non-profit organizations Commercial publishers Commercial publishers
Graphics and Advertising Graphs, charts, formulas, depending on discipline. No glossy ads Photographs, charts, tables, illustrations. Some ads for products related to the field Wide variety of graphics, from plain to glossy ads Very glossy. Full of color ads Pictures, charts, ads of all sorts  
Finding Aids/ Access Tools  Some from general indexes like MegaFile, some in specialized indexes like PsychInfo Indexes like Business Source Premier. sometimes also in general scholarly indexes like Academic Search Premier General indexes like MegaFile, Academic Search Premier General indexes like MegaFile, Academic Search Premier In indexes like Newspapers. Some major papers in general indexes

Adapted with permission from G. Gradowski, who kindly provided an update of the chart from Gradowski, G., Snavely, L., & Dempsey, P. (1998) Designs for active learning: A sourcebook of classroom strategies for information education. Chicago: ACRL.


As you search in the databases, you'll see that some of them bring back results by article type, or they will give you the option to sort by article type. This can be a huge time-saver. If you can eliminate articles that won't be acceptable for your assignments, use the tools to do that.