Subject Guides

HIST 480A: U.S. in the 1960s

Guide Contents

Help with the Research Process

For help with selecting/narrowing a topic and finding resources, check out the Libraries' guide:


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Mary Tuttle
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Types of Publications


A single book written on one topic

Edited Volume

A book on one theme/topic with chapters on different themes/topics written by different authors

Conference Proceedings

 A book with chapters written by each presenter for one conference

Journal Articles

Individual articles written by authors on a specific topic

Book Reviews

Articles written by authors reviewing one or more books; not typically peer reviewed

Types of Sources

Primary Sources

Materials created at the time under study, that serve as original evidence documenting a time period, event, people, idea, or work. Primary sources can be printed materials (such as books and ephemera), manuscript/archival materials (such as diaries or ledgers), audio/visual materials (such as recordings or films), artifacts (such as clothes or personal belongings), or born-digital materials (such as emails or digital photographs). Primary sources can be found in analog, digitized, and born-digital forms. Newspapers are considered primary sources when they document an eyewitness account of an event, are used to understand interpretations/impressions of a period, are used for analysis of advertisements, etc.

Secondary Sources

Works that synthesize and/or comment on primary and/or other secondary sources. Secondary sources, which are often works of scholarship, are differentiated from primary sources by the element of critical synthesis, analysis, or commentary. Secondary sources are most often scholarly books and journal articles. Newspapers are considered secondary sources when they synthesize past reports, are research-based, and/or are used for background information on your topic.

Tertiary Sources

Works that index, abstract, organize, compile, or digest other sources, and typically present that content with relevant context. 

Some definitions taken from the ACRL Guide for Primary Source Literacy

Evaluating Primary Sources

Some topics to consider when evaluating primary sources:


Download this list as a handout:

Evaluating Books


Words used in the title can often give you clues about a book's intended audience or purpose. Scholarly books usually have titles that sound more formal. For example, books with titles like Complexity and Evolution: Toward a New Synthesis for Economics have a much greater likelihood of being scholarly as compared to books with titles like Business Cat: Money, Power, Treats.

Publication Date

Timeliness and currency are important when selecting a book for your research. Whether or not a book is considered current will vary greatly depending on the discipline and the particular topic. Additionally, since it can take years to write and publish a book, if you're looking for the most up-to-date information available, you may need to consult other types of sources that have a faster publication cycle.


Authors of scholarly books cite their sources using formal citation styles like Chicago, MLA, APA, or others. These references may appear as parenthetical citations, footnotes, endnotes, or bibliographies. When evaluating the quality of a scholarly book, it's often useful to examine these citations to get a better sense of the relationship between the book and other scholarly work on the topic.

Tone and Language

The text of scholarly books will usually have a more serious tone and use formal or technical language that may not be easily understood by a general audience.


Scholarly books are almost always written by professors or researchers affiliated with universities or research institutes. Some scholarly books, often called edited books or edited volumes, are co-authored by a group of people who are each responsible for a particular chapter. The editors of edited volumes are also professors or researchers.

Most scholarly books list their authors' and/or editors' credentials (i.e., affiliations with universities or research institutes, previous publications, and sometimes academic degrees). This information can be useful in determining whether someone is considered an authority on the topic they're writing about.


There are several different categories of publishers, each specializing in particular types of book. Understanding who published the book will help inform your analysis of the book's content.


Types of Publishers:

University Press

Scholarly books, e.g. Harvard University Press

Professional titles

Professional, technical, reference, textbooks, e.g. Wiley, Scholastic

Research Center/Institute titles

Scholarly (often reporting research produced by members of the center or institute), e.g. Pew Research Center; Brookings Institution Press

Commercial/Trade Publications

Popular/mass-marketed, e.g. Random House, Penguin

Open Access Publications

Scholarly, Textbooks, e.g. Muse Open, National Academies Press

Evaluating Journals

Professors often suggest that students include articles from scholarly, refereed, or peer-reviewed journals as resources for their research papers. These articles are authored by experts in their fields and reviewed by peers before getting accepted for publication. See the information below to help you distinguish between the three main types of periodicals.

Popular Magazine

e.g., Time Magazine

Appearance: Highly visual, lots of advertising and photos.

Audience: General readership

Content: Popular magazines contain feature stories, reviews, and editorials, and may report research findings as news.


  • Are meant to entertain and inform.
  • Use popular language, geared toward the average reader.
  • Written by staff writers (not always named), or freelance writers.
  • Generally short in length (1-10 pages).
  • Rarely include references or footnotes.
  • Evaluated by editorial staff, but may not be reviewed by experts in the field.


Scholarly Journal

e.g. Journal of American Studies

Appearance: Sober design, little advertising, mostly text with some graphs and tables.

Audience: Students, researchers, scholars, specialists in a particular subject.

Content: Scholarly journals contain original research, theoretical issues, and new developments in the subject discipline.


  • Present the results of original research performed by the authors; often include a review of existing literature on the topic.
  • Include specialized vocabulary of a subject discipline.
  • Written by subject specialists identified by name, with degrees and academic affiliation usually given.
  • Generally medium-length to long (5-20 pages or more).
  • Meticulously documented; extensive references and/or footnotes.
  • Most often peer-reviewed by other authorities in the field to validate findings.


Trade Journal

e.g. Steel Times International

Appearance: Visual; some advertising related to the field, photos.

Audience: Members of a particular trade, profession or industry.

Content: Trade and professional journals contain news, trends, technical and practical aspects of the trade, profession or industry.


  • May present industry news and/or original research.
  • Include specialized vocabulary of a trade, profession or industry.
  • Written by staff writers and freelancers, usually professionals in the field.
  • Generally short to medium-length (1-20 pages)
  • May contain a few references or footnotes.
  • Evaluated by editorial staff that may include experts in the field, but not peer-reviewed.

Please note that not all articles found in magazines, or journals, will contain the noted characteristics. Use careful judgement in determining if an article in a scholarly journal actually presents in-depth, original research, or if an article in a magazine or trade journal goes beyond presenting news and current trends