Skip to Main Content

How to Build a Country POLS 3530 / ASST 3030

Find Sources

stack of newspapersNews sources (newspapers, magazines, news blogs, news broadcasts, news feeds, etc.) are written by reporters (aka journalists) on topics of current interest.

When and Why You Should Use News Sources:

  • You need information on a recent event or topic of interest
  • You need eyewitness accounts of events
  • You need reports on activities of state and local government
  • You need insights into local culture, arts & entertainment
  • You need perspectives from underrepresented groups
  • You need sources that advocate a particular viewpoint or opinion

Remember: Not all news sources are created equal! Some have hidden (or obvious!) motives or political beliefs. Do some background research into who owns the news organization to learn more about it.

Find News:

Note taking and highlighting journal articles by Raul Pacheco-Vega (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) articles -- also known as "scholarly articles," "peer-reviewed articles," or "academic articles" -- are sources that are written and reviewed by scholars; this means the information is approved by other experts before publication.

When and Why You Should Use Journal Articles:

  • You need information that is based on research and expertise
  • You need in-depth analysis of a topic or a single case study explored in-depth
  • You need recent scholarly conversations about a topic
  • You need suggestions for additional sources (tip: look in the bibliography)
  • You need sources that are peer-reviewed

Remember: Journal articles can sometimes feel dense or intense. Look for visual cues (headings, sections, bullets, charts/graphs) within articles to help guide you to relevant information. Need help? Check out this Anatomy of a Scholarly Article tutorial.

Find Journal Articles:

brown paper and black penPrimary sources are firsthand accounts of an event -- or original records created during that time period -- which do not contain any outside interpretation. Primary sources can include letters, diaries, or interviews; historical news reportage; original works of fiction, art, or music; testimony or speeches.

When and Why You Should Use Primary Sources:

  • You need a better understanding of an event, produced by someone who experienced or witnessed the event in question
  • You need to offer a view of history through the lens of of unique, often profoundly personal, documents or objects
  • You need examples of different points of view from individuals whose stories might not have been told

Remember: Primary sources are the building blocks of historical research and should provide the foundation of your argument and interpretation, whereas secondary sources should inform and supplement the primary sources. Use your primary sources as evidence for answering your research question and write based on those sources, rather than “plugging them in” after the fact to bolster your argument. In short, primary sources should drive the paper, not the other way around.

Find Primary Sources:

stack of booksBooks written by scholars and published by university presses are a good source of information for many topics.

When and Why You Should Use Books:

  • You need good historical overviews of topic
  • You need broad coverage of one or more topics
  • You need a summary of existing research on a topic

Remember: Books may contain less recent information, often due to a lengthy publication process. Also, you may only need to read one chapter of a scholarly book!

Find Books at Temple:

Find Books at Other Libraries:

Can't find a book you need at Temple? Try using the following source and request books to be sent to Temple.

'Book Review' by Trending Topics 2019 CC BY 2.0 ( reviews for creative works (fiction, poetry, short stories) are often written by journalists or fellow authors and are a good measure of contemporary reaction to a work. They often appear in newspapers, magazines, or online (blogs and review websites) and can be as brief as one paragraph or several thousand words. Book reviews generally do not contain the kind of in-depth analysis found in literary criticism written by scholars. 

When and Why You Should Use Book Reviews:

  • You need to know how/whether readers reacted to a work when it was initially published 
  • You need examples of other contemporaneous works that were compared or mentioned in conjunction with the work in question

Remember: Creative works are generally reviewed near the date of publication or within the first few years after publication, so target your searches. Also, for older works, look for book reviews that may have appeared for subsequent special editions or reprints in later years.

Find Book Reviews: 

Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.Government documents are any piece of information produced by a government entity or at government expense. They include many types of sources: the hearings and debates of legislative bodies; official text of laws, regulations, and treaties; records of government expenditures and finances; statistical compilations, like census data; investigative reports; scientific data, etc.

A government's documents are direct evidence of its activities, functions, and policies. They are considered a government's official "voice."

When and Why You Should Use Government Information:

  • You need demographic information, like statistical data, about U.S. communities
  • You need details about laws, legislation, court rulings, or voting records
  • You need to track the trends and progress of what transpires within a government department or agency

Remember: U.S. government documents are produced by government agencies at local, state, and federal levels. Consider which level(s) may have the information you need and whether comparing across levels could be useful.

Find Government Information:

graph chartData is raw information. Data or data sets are primary sources that are the result of research studies or surveys. Statistics are the collection, organization, interpretation, and analysis of data. Statistics are found in tables, graphs, and charts.

When and Why You Should Use Data:

  • You need to clarify and put arguments into perspective
  • You need to identify trends, outliers, and patterns across seemingly disparate topics
  • You need demographic information about trends in local communities, across states, or at the national level

Remember: Data alone can't make the argument for you. Treat data as evidence that requires interpretation. Data is only as good as the people who create it, the quality of their work, and how well they relay their personal or organizational bias. 

Find Data:

Find the Full-Text

Can't Locate Your Article Online?

  • Use the Available online icon link found in the Library Search or the Example of Find Full Text iconbutton available from most other databases to locate the entire article online.
  • If your article is not available in print or via another research database, request it via ILLiad (interlibrary loan).