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Subject Guide for English. Covers Fundamentals of Grammar and Composition (098/099), Current Events (101), and Literature.

Finding Quality Resources

When evaluating sources look for currency, relevance, accuracy, authority, and purpose

Your use of sources is a means of supporting the argument you make in your research paper. 

The sources you reference need to be credible and authoritative. Check the following things to make sure you are using good, scholarly sources.

  • Check the date that your source was published. 
  • Is is recent and up-to-date? 
  • Was it written in a time frame that is relevant to your research? 
  • Finally, make sure the source you are using is being maintained and kept current.
  • Does this source give information or perspectives related to my research? 
  • Who was this source intended for?
  • How do I know this information is accurate?
  • Has it been reviewed before publication (peer-reviewed)?
  • Is the source unemotional and professional? 
  • Where did the author get his/her information?

  • Is the author affiliated with a university or another institution? What else has the author written?
  • What are his/her credentials? Are they qualified? Expertise in this field? There are many articles published claiming to be scholarly work by individuals claiming expertise but are of highly questionable credibility.
  • Is it peer-reviewed? Peer-reviewed scholarly work provides greater credibility to the publication.
  • Was the source published on-line? Check the URL for the domain. This can help you determine the origin of the document, for example whether it is produced by a federal or local agency, a nonprofit organization or a commercial web site. A web site on a university or institution's server is more likely to be a reliable objective source than one on a commercial site. Be wary of websites where the name of the author cannot be found.
  • NOTE: A journal article found online through a database is NOT a web resource.
  • Why was this source created? Determine if the page is a mask for advertising or politics; if yes, then the information could be biased.
  • A writer’s tone of how he/she writes is evidence of respect for the research process and for the opinions of others. Be wary of writers who express their views in an angry tone.
  • Is the intended audience a scholarly one? If so, it should have a clear bibliography that you will also be able to consult for further sources.
  • References and links to other sources can add to a document's credibility.

infographic scholarly journals

What is a Periodical? A periodical is any source that is published at regular intervals, such as daily, weekly, monthly, etc. They can be journals, magazines, newspapers, etc. Periodicals can be popular or scholarly in nature.

  • What is a Scholarly Periodical? It is an academic journal; a published work of a particular discipline or subject written by a scholar or person of expertise. Used for teaching, continual learning, and professional development. Generally called a journal.  

  • What is a Popular Periodical? Sports, Hobbies, Lifestyle, etc. Appealing to or intended for the general public; liked by many people. Generally called a magazine.

Periodicals can also be located on databases and the web: these criteria may be applied to the online version of print periodicals, web-based electronic periodicals as well as the traditional print magazines and journals.


  • Journals have a very serious appearance, with many graphs and charts, but few glossy pages or exciting pictures.
  • Scholarly journals always cite their sources in the form of footnotes or bibliographies (references, sources).
  • The articles are written by a scholar in the field or by someone who has done research in the field. The credentials of these individuals are always given.
  • The articles are usually long, anywhere from 3-10 pages.
  • The language or terminology of scholarly journals is that of the discipline covered. It assumes some scholarly background on the part of the reader.
  • The main purpose of a scholarly journal is to report on original research or experimentation in order to make such information available to the rest of the scholarly world.
  • Many of the scholarly are published by a specific professional organizations.


  • Magazines are often referred to as "popular.” They come in many formats, often quite attractive in appearance, with many photographs, drawings, etc. They also contain advertisements.
  • Magazines rarely cite sources and the original source is sometimes obscure.
  • Articles are usually very short, written in a simple language, and are designed to meet an average educational level.
  • Popular magazines appeal to a wide range of people.
  • The main purpose of popular magazines is to entertain the reader, to sell products, and to promote a viewpoint.

Why Not Just Google?

While using internet searches, such as Google, seem easier, it actually can make finding quality resources a lot harder.

Search engines are designed to produce as many results as possible, but often those results are irrelevant or from unreliable, irrelevant, or inaccessible sources. This means that you--the researcher-- will have to determine if each individual source is helpful and authoritative and then determine if and how you can access it. Search engines like Google are best when used primarily for defining terms and gaining basic knowledge of your topic before beginning to research. 

Library Databases do a lot of the source evaluation for you. The only resources they contain have already been identified as reliable and authoritative, and the library pays for access, so you will always be able to get to what you need. You may not get as many results, but the quality of information you find will make your whole research project much easier.

Primary and Secondary Sources

Primary sources are first-hand descriptions of events. They are produced by people who were at the event or lived at that time.

Some primary sources are:Old books

  • legal documents,
  • science experiments,
  • photographs,
  • novels and short stories,
  • recordings,
  • speeches,
  • diary entries,
  • interviews, e-mails or letters,
  • and works of art.
  • Even historical newspaper articles are sometimes considered primary sources.

Secondary sources are descriptions, commentaries, interpretations, and evaluations of primary sources. Basically, if something is talking about a primary source, it is a secondary source. 

For more information:

Santiago Canyon College Library: Primary and Secondary Sources Video

Santiago Canyon College: Identifying Primary and Secondary Resources

Library Resources

Databases are collections of resources that the library subscribes to. Each database is specifically designed to contain resources which are useful for a specific field of study. Databases can be accessed from on or off campus. Find a list of helpful databases in the subject guide for your class.

Reference books are designed for accessing specific facts or information and can take the form of indexes, dictionaries, encyclopedias, bibliographies, almanacs, directories, handbooks etc.Reference books cannot be checked-out from the library.

At BPCC Library, the reference section is located on the 1st floor of the Learning Commons.

You can use the scanner to copy the information you need. We recommend saving this to a flashdrive.

Use the scanners to copy reference or reserve material.


Scanners are free to use. There is one on the first floor and one in the tutoring center. KIC book scanner image

Save your image to a flash-drive or e-mail it to yourself.                               

Hard copies can be printed by logging on to a computer, accessing the file on your flash-drive or e-mail and using your free printing. 

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