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Comm 110 Intro to Research - Kaven: Know Your Sources

Jessica Kaven

Credibility is Crucial

As you begin to answer your research questions, you need to be sure that you are using the best possible sources of information. You will likely find a variety of sources during your research: books, articles, Web documents, interviews, DVDs, and more.  For each and every source you use you want to make sure it passed the CRAAP test: 

Currency - Is the content presented current enough for your project? For your specific research question?

Relevancy - Does it answer your research question?

Authority - Does the author have relevant expertise on the topic about which she is writing?

Accuracy - Is the information provided correct?

Point of View - Is the information biased? Is the author trying to persuade you to believe a certain way?

Scholarly, Substantive and Popular Sources

Types of sources include ScholarlySubstantive, and Popular publications.  It is essential you are able to identify them and understand their differences.


  • Authors =  scholars/experts
  • Audience =  scholars/experts
  • Purpose = communicate specific information within an academic or professional discipline
  • Characteristics = Scholary language, author credentials, long articlesextensive bibliographies, often peer-reviewed
  • Example: Journals like the Journal of the American Medical Association
  • Bottom line: Highly credible. Always a good choice for academic work, but know what you're getting into.


  • Authors = scholars or journalists
  • Audience = educated, but non-expert
  • Purpose = communicate information of interest and import + to make a profit
  • Characteristics = accessible language/style, medium length
  • Example: Newspapers (New York Times) and some magazines (National Geographic, The Economist)
  • Bottom line: Credible. Most community college instructors will allow some substantive material. Watch for bias.


  • Authors = journalists, staff writers, freelance writers, enthusiasts
  • Audience = general
  • Purpose = entertain, sell, inflame
  • Characteristics = easy to read, short articles, highly entertaining, lots of pictures and ads
  • Example: Some magazines (Men's Health, People) and many Web pages
  • Bottom line: not suitable for school, but what fun!



Locate a Book

From your results list, click on the title to view a full record of the book. We'll use our "green building" search again. Look for three key pieces of information for locating it in the library:  Location, Call Number, and Status:

Where do I go?

Check out books at the main circulation desk in each library building. In Geisel it's the one across from the entry doors. If the line is long, or if you're more of a do-it-yourself person, use the Self-Checkout machines:

What do I need?Your Student ID card = Library card

UC San Diego ID card is your library card; you will need it to check out books.


How long can I have a book?

Lending times will vary between libraries and will depend on whether you are an undergraduate or a graduate student. Be sure to ask when you check out. If you forget the due date simply check your My Library Account. For more information on using your library account go to the Using My Library Account tab on the top of this page.

How can I renew my books?

Most library material (excluding course reserves) may be renewed online, over the phone, or in-person.

Narrowing your search using subject headings

A keyword search is great when you're starting out, but to get a more specific set of books on your topic try using subject headings. Subject headings use a set vocabulary to group together books on the same topic.It's a more organized way to search. Starting out a new topic though, you probably won't know the subject heading terminology to use. A great trick is to do a keyword search, find books that meet your needs and look for the subject headings.

In the following example I started with a keyword search "green building" and of my results list (482 items) I clicked on a promising title to get to this full-page description. The subject headings are the blue hyperlinks near the end of the description:


Click on the hyperlinked subjects to get a new set of results, all with the same subject heading. Hint: Consider right-clicking on the hyperlink to open the subject heading results in a new tab or window so that you don't lose track of your initial search results.

Request through the Circuit or Melyvyl catalogs

You can use two other library catalogs, Circuit or Melvyl, to find books and request delivery to UC San Diego (free of charge!).

Circuit - San Diego area universities catalog Melvyl - UC combined catalog
Books usually delivered to The Library within 48 hours, M-F. Books usually delivered to The Library within a week.
Searches the holdings of UC San Diego, SDSU, USD, Cal State San Marcos and the San Diego County Library system. Searches the holdings of all 10 University of California campuses plus libraries worldwide.

1. Link to Circuit and Melvyl from your search results in The Library catalog

Look for the links on the right-hand side of the page, the system automatically repeats your search in the Circuit or Melvyl catalogs:

2. Place Your Request

Both of these additional catalogs provide a tool for requesting the book you want.  

  • In Circuit, look for the blue request button. For example, this is the view on the page with the details about the book.

Select your location and enter your information including your UC San Diego PIN - for details on creating it, see My Library Account tab.


  • In Melvyl, look for the yellow Request button. You can find it on the item's details page.

You will need your library barcode (21822 ...  on the back of your campus ID), select a pick up location, and enter your email address so we can alert you when the book is received.



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Types of Publications

Characteristics Popular Substantive Scholarly
  popular magazines substantive magazines scholarly journals
Purpose Entertain, sell products, and/or promote a particular viewpoint Provide general information to a wide, interested audience Report on original research or experimentation in order to make such information available to the rest of the scholarly world
Authors Staff writer or journalist 
Name and credentials often not provided
Staff writer, scholars, or free-lance writers

Expert or scholar in the discipline
Name and credentials provided

Audience General readers with a minimal education level Written for an educated, general audience Scholarly readers
Language Written in simple language Written in language for an educated audience Written in the jargon of the scholarly discipline
Format/Graphics Short articles; slick and glossy; contain photographs, illustrations, and drawings to enhance their appeal Longer articles; attractive in appearance; include photographs, illustrations, and graphics to enhance the publication Long articles; grave, serious formats; graphs and charts; seldom glossy pages or pictures
Cite Sources? Rarely cite any sources; original sources can be obscure Occasionally cite sources Cite sources with footnotes and/or bibliographies

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