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Information Literacy at CalArts

The guide contains information surrounding key topics in information literacy and related resources for students and faculty.

Scholarly vs. Popular Sources

Scholarly sources are usually authored by experts in the field, and they can generally be relied upon to be authoritative and reliable (though it is important to critically evaluate every type of information source!). They are written for the purposes of research, they tend to be peer-reviewed, and they reference many sources.

Popular sources are written for a general audience to inform or entertain. They tend to be shorter and composed with non-technical language, and their authors are not necessarily subject experts. 

Both scholarly and popular sources can be appropriate for your research. Just be sure to evaluate each source critically!

Why Use...Reference Sources?

Dictionaries and encyclopedias are useful when: 

  • You need a general overview of a subject or concept
  • You need specific/niche information surrounding a figure or event 
  • You need to reference a scholarly source
  • You need recommendations for further reading

Wikipedia is not considered a scholarly source, as anyone can edit it--but you can still use Wikipedia to jumpstart your research. Wiki editors are required to cite their sources!

To find reference sources, enter these searches in the CalArts Library catalog:

  • [your subject] + dictionary
  • [your subject] + encyclopedia

Why Use...Scholarly Journal Articles?

Scholarly journals are publications produced by experts in particular fields of study. They tend to be peer-reviewed, which is a kind of a quality assurance mechanism; other experts approve the articles prior to publication. Scholarly journal articles are useful when:

  • You need a scholarly source on a specific topic
  • You want to lend authority to your research
  • You need a better understanding of how your research topic is discussed in its field
  • You want trustworthy references to further reading

You can take several approaches to finding scholarly articles:

  • If you've found other useful sources, look at the articles that they've referenced. These can usually be found in the bibliography or works cited section.
  • Perform a search using the CalArts Library catalog. Scroll down until you see the "Content Type" filter on the left panel. Check "Peer Reviewed."

  • Perform searches on scholarly databases like JSTOR, Project Muse, and ProQuest (just for a start--CalArts provides access to over 100, in a range of subject areas!).

Why Use...Books?

A stack of colorful books. Books can contain many different types of information. They can serve as scholarly sources, popular sources, or somewhere in between! It all depends upon their authorship and content. In general, books can be useful when:

  • You need to review a large scope of in-depth information on a particular subject
  • Books tend to contain much more information than articles, websites, newspapers, and so on!
  • You want a lengthy list of cited reference to utilize for your research
  • You want to develop a deep, nuanced understanding of a topic

To find books, search the CalArts Library catalog. Scroll down until you see the "Format" filter on the left panel. Check "Book." You can then refine your search to print books or eBooks.

Why Use...News Sources?

A newspaper.News sources like newspapers and other news media are useful when:

  • You need first-hand accounts of events (also referred to as original journalism)
  • You want to better understand how events were publicly understood and discussed
  • You want to review social and political phenomena associated with a particular moment in time

To find news sources, try searching news databases via the CalArts Library website.

Why Use...Magazines?

A colorful graphic of a magazine. Magazines are considered "popular sources," and in contrast to scholarly journals, they are not peer-reviewed. There are all kinds of magazines, from periodicals like The New Yorker to highly subject-specific sources like, say, Cat Fancy. Magazines are useful when:

  • You want a general understanding of a subject from an accessible, easy-to-read source
  • You're looking for high-quality images

To find magazines, you can use a few different strategies:

  • The CalArts Library has a number of magazines in browsable, hard copy. Stop by and explore the collection!
  • Perform a search using the CalArts Library catalog. Enter a keyword, subject, or author, and scroll down until you see the "Format" filter on the left panel. Check "Journal, Magazine."

A checkbox to the left of the words "Journal, Magazine."

Why Use...Websites?

A graphic of a browser with a cursor symbol. Websites sometimes contain information you can't find in a book or other print source, and they can contain the most up-to-date information on a subject. Remember to evaluate websites carefully to ensure the information you're accessing is of quality! Websites are useful when:

  • You're looking for data to inform your research
  • You're researching a niche or extremely specific topic that may not be covered in other source types
  • You need to find images


Why Use...Social Media?

Three colorful chat boxes representing social media.Social media can be useful to track news events has they happen and gather quotes from public figures. Remember to always investigate further; don't take what you see on social media at face value! Social media is useful for:

  • Gathering quotes from public figures
  • Tracking breaking news in real time