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Beyond Google: Research for College Success

Types of Materials and Sources of Information


  1. To Google Or Not To Google?
  2. Understanding the basics of the Internet
  3. Differentiate between types of Information
    • popular vs. scholarly
    • primary vs. secondary
  4. Differentiate between formats of information

1.1 To Google or not to Google?

To Google or Not to Google?  That is the question many first-year students struggle with.  A statement we librarians hear at the Reference Desk constantly as we launch the Google chrome browser to get into the Library's website is: "My professor does not want me to use the Internet for this assignment."  While we understand why this is, we use the instance as a teachable moment to distinguish between vetted information that is in library subscription databases and what is freely available on the Internet via Google.  We all know that anyone can publish on the Web, which is why professors discourage use of the Internet for assignments.  But it is okay to Google; however one needs to understand how to sort out what is relevant, reliable, and trustworthy from over 2 million results in Google when you can get a much smaller subset of scholarly results from an academic library database.

So here is where this course comes in.  LIB 102: Beyond Google: Research for College Success is a research course that focuses on the topic of Information Literacy.  Information Literacy is the ability to weed out and navigate through information from a plethora of sources (i.e. social media, websites, podcasts, government reports, films, journals, maps, books, newspapers, and more) and to be able to use the information retrieved appropriately and ethically (i.e., to be blunt, without plagiarizing!).   There is so much information available out there, today.  We see an exponential increase in information, daily, thanks to the ease of adding information to the Internet and publishing both print and electronic materials via the Web.  With so much information, it becomes easy to find some things, but increasingly difficult to distinguish between the fake information from the reliable and correct piece of information. 

Information Literacy is about identifying your research needs, finding the best information possible for your project/assignment, and using the information correctly and ethically.  Put simply by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), it identifies Information Literacy as "... the set of skills needed to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information." (ACRL, 2000).

A person who is information literate can tell if a particular question needs high quality information, or if it is something that can be solved quickly with less authoritative information.  For example, wondering who starred in a movie doesn't need perfect information.  It might just require you find the last name quickly.  However, working on a research paper for a African American history college course may require much more reliable information and it might take more effort to find and verify the correct first or last name, and sometimes the correct initial.  Examples: Is it Dan Levy or Eugene Levy who plays the son in Schitt's Creek?  Which president of the United States signed a legislation to establish a national museum on the mall dedicated to African American history and culture? Was it George W. Bush or George H.W. Bush? However, to answer the following question one might need to do in-depth research from authoritative sources: What do juveniles experience when they are placed in legal detention for committing a minor crime?

It goes without saying that you will, no doubt, become an information literate person by the end of this course as you will master the various methods that will lead you to identifying the appropriate source, other than Google, to retrieve the correct answers.



Association of College and Research Libraries. Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education, 2000, 

1.2 Understanding the Internet

What is the Internet?

The Internet is a network of computers upon which anyone who has access to a host computer can publish their own documents.  One of these networks is the World Wide Web (or just the "Web") which allows Internet publishers to link to other documents on the network.  The Internet allows transmission of a variety of file types, including non-written multimedia. 

There are many kinds of Internet sites that you might find during the course of a search, sites created by different people or organizations with different objectives.  Every webpage has it's own address called a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) which helps us to identify the type of site encountered.  The domain name tells you that type of organization sponsoring a webpage.  It is a three-letter code that is part of the URL and preceded by a dot."  Here are the most common domains that I am sure you have seen:

.biz general use by businesses
.com commercial entity.  Companies advertise, sell products, and publish annual reports and other company information on the Web.  Many online newspapers and journals also have .com names. 
.edu educational institution.  Even though a page comes from an educational institution, it does not mean the institution endorses the views published by students or faculty members
.gov government.  Federal and state government agencies use the Web to publish legislation, census information, weather data, tax forms, and many other documents
.int restricted to international organizations, offices, or programs endorsed by a treaty between two or more nations
.mil military. Limited to use by the U.S. military
.net Internet service providers
.org non-profit organization.  Non-profit organizations use the Web to promote their causes.  These pages are good sources to use when comparing different sides of an issue.

Not all websites are considered trustworthy.  In general, those created by educational, governmental, or non-profit organizations (e.g., .edu, .gov, .mil, .org, .int, etc.) are viewed to be more trustworthy than commercial or personal websites (e.g., .com, .net, .biz, etc).

Much like the address on an envelope with a name, street address, city, state, and zip code, each part of a URL provides information about the Webpage.  The following websites illustrate this: 

Https:// College of Staten Island (CSI), which is part of the City University of New York (CUNY), and is an educational institution (.edu).
Https:// Information about Coronavirus, that is listed under health topics, within the website of the World Health Organization (WHO), an international organization (.int)


quick statistical data of the United States, from the Census Bureau, a governmental organization (.gov)

1.3 Analyzing and Categorizing Information

We all put information into categories whether we realize it or not. Fiction vs. Nonfiction. Live-streaming vs. Print. Magazines vs. Books.  When you walk into a library or a bookstore, the items are arranged in subject categories (psychology, history, mathematics, etc.) or by genre (science fiction, mystery, romance, study guides, etc.) or by format or media type (print, DVD, CD, scores, monographs, etc.) or Other, such as equipment (Laptops, Calculators, iPads, Cameras, etc).

Information can be analyzed by the order in which it is produced -- this is the general focus of the following section -- primary/secondary/tertiary categories -- to be discussed in section 1.4.

Information can be categorized by who produces it and who the major audience is, as with the popular/scholarly/trade categories to be discussed in section 1.7.  Information also can appear in a number of formats as you will see in 1.5. 

WHY does this matter?

  1. A class assignment might require you to use only SCHOLARLY sources.  How do you find and identify those?
  2. A presentation (for class or on the job) could benefit from a mix of formats.  For example, you might want to use the actual audio of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech for a history class PowerPoint. Or you might need to include a videoclip of a competitor's commercial for a market share analysis for your boss. Where do you find the audiofile or videoclip?
  3. You want the text of a speech by your State senator to clarify his/her position on an important issue.  You heard a little of it on the local news, but want to make sure you get the whole picture.  Where do you find the actual words of the entire speech, either in print or in some type of database?  

Knowing how information is categorized helps you make sense of it all.  It will also help you select the best sources for your particular purpose (i.e. research paper, powerpoint presentation, report, etc.).

1.4 Types of Sources: Primary vs. Secondary vs. Tertiary

Primary: Primary sources are original, uninterpreted information.  Unedited, firsthand access to words, images, or objects created by persons directly involved in an activity or event or speaking directly for a group.  This is information before it has been analyzed, interpreted, commented upon, or repackaged.  The original document is created or experienced concurrently with the event being researched. Depending upon the context, these may include research reports, sales receipts, speeches, original tweets, e-mails, original artwork, manuscripts, photos, diaries, personal letters, postcards, spoken stories/tales/interviews, diplomatic records, etc. Think of physical evidence or eyewitness testimony in a court trial.

Secondary: Secondary sources interpret, analyze, or summarize commentary upon, or analysis of, events, ideas, or primary sources.  Because they are often written significantly after events by parties not directly involved but who have special expertise, they may provide historical context or critical perspectives.  Examples are scholarly books, textbooks, research studies, book reviews, journals, magazines, criticism, interpretations, biographies, and so forth.  Think of a lawyer's final summation or jury discussion in a court trial.

Tertiary: Tertiary sources compile and digest primary AND secondary sources.  They are considered reference works, collections of lists or primary and secondary sources, finding tools for sources.  They are included mostly in wikis, abstracts, manuals, dictionaries, bibliographies, thesaurus, handbooks, encyclopedias, indexes, chronologies, etc.  Think of a document that lists all the cases heard by this court this year.

1.5 Formats

Data, facts, information, intelligence, and knowledge can be organized, presented and retrieved in many physical formats:


Printed Materials referenced and collected from print resources (hardback and paperback books, periodicals, print-on-demand (PO) documents, manuscripts, correspondence, loose-leaf materials, notes, brochures, etc.
Digital Digital materials are information materials that are stored in an electronic format on a hard drive, CD-ROM, or remote server. Examples of digital materials are e-books, e-journals, e-course materials, e-databases, Web sites, live-streaming video-clips and films, e-print archives, or e-classes.  These materials are accessed with a computer via the Internet.  While not all materials are listed int he library's catalog are digital, many are, and the OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog), i.e., OneSearch, provides the access to all these materials.
Audio/Video Materials collected using video (television, video recordings, films), audio (radio, audio-recording) tools presented in recorded tapes, podcasts, audio-books, CDs, audio-cassettes, reel to reel tapes, record albums, DVDs, video-cassettes, etc.
Multimedia Materials created by the use of several different media to convey information (text, audio, graphics, animation, video, and interactivity).  Multimedia also refers to computer media.  A Powerpoint presentation using slides, video, and interactive links is an example of a multimedia format.
Microform Materials that have been photographed and their images developed in reduced size onto 35mm or 16mm film rolls or 4"x6" fiche cards, which are viewed on machines equipped with magnifying lenses. This includes back issues of state, national, and international newspapers; non-current issues of magazines and journals; older ERIC documents, and selected government documents.  
Human Information collected from face-to-face or telephone communication (such as letters, e-mails, and texting).

1.6. Tracking books and other materials in a library

Within a library's physical and electronic collection, materials are typically organized by SUBJECT.  Materials include:

  • Books: monographs, textbooks, maps, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and more
  • Periodicals: newspapers, magazines, journals
  • DVDs and CDs
  • Calculators
  • Laptops and iPads
  • Photographs
  • Paintings and Sculptures
  • Musical scores
  • Theses and Dissertations 
  • Manuscripts and other archival materials
  • and more

These materials are assigned a "call number" based on a work's subject and sources are then shelved by that call number so that anyone browsing the shelves will find most of the titles on a subject together.  

Public Libraries, Elementary Schools, and High Schools use the Dewey Decimal System to organize their materials.  

Academic libraries, on the other hand, use the Library of Congress (LC) Classification System to organize it's materials and this is what you will have to learn and use from here on.  

Materials in the LC System are organized into 20 categories, each beginning with a letter of the alphabet
  • A General Works
  • B Philosophy-Religion-Psychology
  • C History (Civilization)
  • D History (Except America)
  • E American History
  • F Local American history, Latin American History
  • G Geography and Anthropology
  • H Social Sciences
  • J Political Science
  • K Law
  • M Music
  • N Fine Arts
  • P Language and Linguistics
  • Q Science and math
  • R Medicine
  • S Agriculture
  • T Technology
  • U Military Science
  • V Naval Science
  • Z Bibliography and Library Science

Each category is then further subdivided into subclasses using a combination of numbers and letters.  Examples of titles of books with call#s in the LC system include:

The LC call # JA 66.S47 2018 identifies "Power and Choice: An Introduction to Political Science" by W. Phillips Shively, which was published in 2018 (the last 4 numbers in the call number).  J is the category for Political Sciences, and subclass JA is for introductory works.  If you click on the hyperlinked title, it will take you into the catalog where you will find more information about the title, namely:


The LC call # ML 420 .J29 A3 2011 identifies "Decoded" by Jay-Z, which was published in 2011 (the last 4 numbers in the call number).  M is the category for Music, and the subclass ML is for Literature on Music. If you click on the hyperlinked title, it will take you into the Catalog where you will find more information about the title, namely:

  • Location: Available at Staten Island Stacks - 3rd floor
  • Subjects covered: Rap Music -- United States -- Biography; Rap Music -- History and criticism
  • Description: "a collection of lyrics and their meanings that together tell the story of a culture, an art form, a moment in history, and one of the most provocative and successful artists of our time." front cover. 


The LC call # P 120 .L34 L36 2016 identifies "Language Awareness: Readings for College Writersby Paul Eschholz et al. As demonstrated in the above examples, this book was published in 2016 (the last 4 numbers in the call number).  P is the category for Language and Linguistics. If you click on the hyperlinked title, above, it will take you into the Catalog where you will find more information about the title, namely:

  • Location: Available at Staten Island Reserves
  • Subjects covered: English language--Rhetoric--Problems, exercises; Report writing... 
  • Description: ..."Language Awareness collects contemporary and classic readings about language that not only make students more aware of its uses and more capable of analyzing its effects, but also helps them to deploy  more effectively in their own writing." 


The LC call # GE 60 .C375 2014 identifies "Careers in Environment and Conservationby Michael Shally-Jansen, and you guessed it, this book was published in 2014 (the last 4 numbers in the call number).  G is the category for Geography and Anthropology, and the subclass GE focuses on Environmental Sciences. If you click on the hyperlinked title, it will take you into the Catalog where you will find 2 copies of the title, one in print and the other an e-book.  Other information about the title include:

  • Location: Available at Staten Island Reference and Fulltext
  • Subjects covered: Environmental Sciences--Vocational Guidance--United States; Environmental Protection; Environmental Engineer; Nature Conservation... 
  • Description: ..."Animal caretaker--Botanist--Energy auditor--Energy engineer--Environmental engineer--Environmental Science technician--Farmer/farm manager--Forester & conservation scientist--Forestry worker--Geographer--Geologist & geophysicist--Hazardous materials technician--Landscape architect--marine biologist--Meteorologist--Nursery worker--Oceanographer--Range manager--Refuse & recyclable material collector--Renewable energy technician--Soil scientist--Water & wastewater engineer--Water treatment plant operator--Wildlife biologist--Wind energy engineer." 

1.7 Popular, Scholarly, and Trade Journals

POPULAR publications inform and entertain the general public.  The content are usually written by editorial staff, journalists, or freelance writers.  They appear daily, weekly, or monthly with short, succint articles, and rarely do they cite other sources. Titles are eye-catching and provocative and the pages are full of photographs, illustrations, and advertisements. 

Daily ones include: The New York Post, The Amsterdam News, Staten Island Advance;

Weekly ones include: Time Magazine, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, People Magazine, Business Week;

Monthly ones include: Vogue, Essence, GQ, Consumer Reports, Forbes, Vanity Fair, Marie Claire, Seventeen, Health, New England Journal of Medicine, and more. 

Some popular publications have gained national and international reputations due to their reliable reporting and the fact that they include cited sources.  To name a few:

New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Financial Times, New Yorker, The Atlantic, Science, National Geographic. See images of popular sources below.

SCHOLARLY publications disseminate original research, discoveries, and academic discussion among professionals within disciplines.  The articles in these publications are often lengthy, written in the technical language of the field, and will often include one or more of the following: literature reviews, case studies, charts, tables, theories, and/or methodologies upon which their research findings were based. A bibliography of references or works cited are always included, too.  Examples of scholarly journals include:

Memory and Cognition, American Journal of Sociology, New England Journal of Medicine, Evidenced Based Library and Information Practice, Journal of Legal Studies Education, American Indian Quarterly, and Perspectives on Global Development and TechnologySee images of scholarly journals below.

TRADE publications which are neither scholarly nor popular sources, though sometimes are a combination of both, allow practitioners in specific industries to share market and production information that improves their businesses.  They are usually in the form of a newspaper or magazine, with new developments and information about the industry, along with targeted advertisements to those in the field as well as job opportunities.  Examples include:

Advertising Age, Interior Design, U.S. Banker, Psychology Today, ABA Journal, Variety, Billboard, and RN

This video from the Winona State University provides a brief summary about these three types of publications. Click on "video" to watch it (skip the ads). It's 5 minutes long, but worth viewing. Hint! the quiz might have one question on it. 

Images of Popular Magazines

Images of Scholarly Journals

1.8. Primary/Secondary/Tertiary vs. Popular/Scholarly/Trade

Let's use the example of a celebrity interview to see how this one piece of information could fit into the various categories we have studied so far, depending on how it's used and where it's made available.

Primary Secondary Tertiary
Popular TV Interview with celebrity; Facebook interview; Podcast interview (Format: audio/visual)  Magazine article in People about celebrity with quotes (Format: print); Newspaper article in Huffington Post with quotes (Format: digital) Index of interviews with various celebrities (Format: digital)
Scholarly Interview notes; journal entry by professor studying media coverage of celebrities (Format: digital) Journal article in Journal of Media & Communication Studies based on professor's studies (Format: print and digital) Article listed in a celebrity wikipedia bibliography (Format: digital)
Trade Interview with celebrity in Variety or Billboard (Format: print, digital) Story in Advertising Age about celebrity as spokesman for company, referring to interview in Variety. (Format: print, digital) Database of magazine articles (Format: digital), e.g. Academic Search Complete

Now Go to BlackBoard course site for LIB102...

 Please log into Blackboard to complete the following listed in Lessons for Week #1.  Any assignment, quiz, or tutorial given in this lesson MUST be completed on or before February 6, 2024and submitted by 11:30pm:

1) Watch the video clip about Google vs. Library in Blackboard, as well as the hidden video in this lecture buried in 1.7.

2) Complete chapter 2 from the e-textbook, Choosing and Using Sources

3) Watch the powerpoint presentation about creating an annotated bibliography;

4) Watch the video-clip on "Navigating the CSI Library's Homepage"; and

5) Complete the Online Scavenger Hunt (50 pts).

6) Prepare for mini quiz on February 7, 2024




CREDIT: With permission, partial content on this web page was adapted from the University of Idaho Information Literacy Portal.