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Introduction to Library Research: Finding Books & Articles

A video presentation on starting your research using the resources at the Macdonald-Kelce Library at The University of Tampa.

Types of Sources

There are three types of sources: primary, secondary, and tertiary.

Primary sources are original first hand materials which have not been interpreted. These include materials like diaries, court proceedings, institutional records, statistical data (raw data), or speeches. Original scientific research is also a primary source. (TIP: If the paper has a "Methods" section it's probably original scientific research.)

Secondary sources are materials that evaluate, interperet, and discuss primary sources. Scholarly journal articles, histories, and monographs are all secondary interpretations of original materials.

Tertiary sources are materials like encyclopedias, Wikipedia, or other reference works. These works compile and summarize primary and secondary sources. While it is appropriate to consult these sources during the initial stages you will want to find primary and secondary sources for your research.


  • Look for books in the Online Catalog located under Resources on the library’s homepage.
  • Books are typically more comprehensive or broad in their treatment of a topic than scholarly articles which tend to be more specific. While the entirety of a book may not be relevant to your research check the Table of Contents and Index using key terms and concepts
  • Follow bibliographic trails. The citations or bibliography in a book can be used to locate more books or articles.
  • Browse the shelf. Academic libraries use the Library of Congress Classification System. This alphanumeric organization clusters similar materials together. The perfect book may be on the shelf so take a moment to look around.
  • If you can't find a particular book in this library, Interlibrary Loan it, and we can get it for you from another library. You can also check to see if it's in the public library system. 

Scholarly Peer Reviewed Journal Articles

  • Log in to Esearch and search for Scholarly Peer Reviewed journal articles through the library's online databases.
  • Academic Search Complete and ProQuest are comprehensive multidisciplinary databases. Check the "scholarly peer review" limiter to ensure your results are retrieved from only scholarly journal sources.
  • JSTOR is another excellent multidisciplinary database with only scholarly materials. JSTOR also has primary source collections.
  • The library also has many subject specific databases. Check the library's Subject Guides to find which databases may be most appropriate for your research topic.
  • Unsure if your article is peer-reviewed? Check the database Ulrichsweb to determine what kind of journal your looking at by searching the name of the journal.