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GEOG G110 Human Geography

Getting Started with research in Human Geography

How Do I Know What Sources to Use?

For any research assignment, the kinds of sources that you will use depend in part on the specific topic that you are researching and on the information that you hope to find. For example, if you wanted to search for public opinions about a current news issue, you would need different sources than if you were researching an historical event. Your assignment may also require that you use specific sources, so be sure to check with your professor. 

Read through the guide below to find descriptions of different types of research sources and how they can be useful for an assignment.

Guide to Research Sources



What are books and monographs, and why are they useful? 


Where do I find books?

Books are a great resource to use when you are just starting out on your assignment and need to learn more about your general research topic. 

Monographs are works (often published as a single book) written by a scholarly expert that discuss a specific subject in great depth and detail. In addition to providing useful overviews and facts on a particular topic, monographs also provide expert evidence from an academic scholar. 


Books provide:

  • Broad overviews of a general topic

  • Basic facts

  • Information on more specific areas within your topic, which can give you ideas on ways to narrow your research topic into something more manageable

Books usually do not provide:

  • Information on very recent or current events (because of the length of time needed to write and publish a book)


This is the library' s catalog. You can search for books here by title, author, or keyword. 




What are scholarly articles? When should I use them?


Where can I find scholarly articles? 

Scholarly articles (also known as refereed or peer-reviewed articles) are written by scholarly experts in a field and are aimed at an academic audience. These articles are usually reviewed by other experts in the same field to help ensure their accuracy and integrity. Scholarly articles are much shorter in length than a book and generally have a more specific subject focus.


Scholarly articles provide: 

  • Evidence from an expert scholar that has been reviewed by other scholars

  • Detailed information and research on very specific topics

  • Insight into current research, trends, and theories within an academic discipline


This searches almost all of the library's databases at once.


Academic Search Premier

This searches several databases at once - another good starting point.




When should I use newspapers? Why are they useful?

Where can I find newspaper articles?


Newspaper articles are particularly useful if you are interested in researching current events, public opinions, or media representations of an event or issue. 


Newspapers provide: 

  • Coverage of current or very recent events

  • Firsthand accounts

  • Information on public opinions about an event or issue

  • Insight into media representations of an issue


*Always keep in mind that newspaper articles are written by journalists, not scholarly researchers, and are directed towards a much more general audience than scholarly articles or monographs. Because of this, newspaper articles are generally not considered to be scholarly sources. 

IU Libraries Full-Text E-Journals

Search for a specific newspaper title.


Major U.S. Newspapers

This library guide lists major U.S. newspapers and where to find them.


Global News Sources

This library guide has information on where to find different global newspapers.


What are primary sources?

Where can I search for primary sources?


Primary sources provide direct or firsthand evidence about an event, person, or object. These sources are contemporary to the events and people described. In the context of historical research, primary sources are sources that were created during the specific time period being studied. In scientific disciplines, primary sources are often original research studies.


Some examples of primary sources include: 

  • Newspaper articles

  • Diaries 

  • Letters

  • Memoirs and autobiographies

  • Speeches

  • Works of art

  • Photographs

  • Scientific experiments 

  • Government documents (research data, laws, legislative hearings, etc.)


Read through this guide for examples of how to search for primary sources in IUCAT.


ProQuest Historical Newspapers

Search a variety of historical U.S. newspapers published from the 1800s to the present.



Search over 1.6 million digital images in art, architecture, the humanities, and more. 



What are secondary sources? 

Where can I find secondary sources?


Secondary sources were produced sometime after an event took place. Unlike primary sources, secondary sources do not provide firsthand evidence. Instead, they provide information that has been analyzed or interpreted in some way. Secondary sources often analyze information that has been gathered from various primary sources.


Examples of secondary sources include: 

  • History textbooks

  • Book reviews

  • Scholarly articles (those that interpret or analyze other sources)


Search for books that analyze or intepret historical events, artwork, or scientific studies. 



Search for analytical scholarly articles and book reviews on your topic.