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GLE 230 Composition Guide: Writing in the Disciplines


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Different disciplines and professors have different requirements for the research they expect from you.  They may also use different terminology. 

Here are some terms you might encounter:

Professional, Scholarly, Peer-reviewed - these mean that your professor wants sources that are written in an academic style and for an academic audience (written by researchers for other researchers.)  You can find these by searching in DiPietro Library databases and limiting your search using those terms to limit your searches.  Different databases use different terms, so check to see which terms your database uses. See the examples below.  If they use multiple terms to mean the same thing, you don't need to check all the boxes.

ALL of our databases include scholarly materials.


EBSCOHost databases ProQuest Databases JSTOR

JSTOR Limiters

JSTOR only indexes materials from academic journals,
BUT not everything it includes is academic. It also
includes opinion pieces, letters to the editor, book 
reviews, etc.


Primary, Secondary, Tertiary - these terms indicate how close the information is to the event or research that it is about.  Generally, you want to use information that is as close to the source as possible.

Primary - Information that is closest to the event/source  Examples include:

  • Scholarly Research articles
  • News reports from the time an incident happened
  • Interviews with the person involved
  • Website of an organization
  • Many social media posts
  • Data and statistics

Secondary - Information that is once removed from the original source. Secondary sources may combine combine or simplify Primary sources for a different audience.  Examples include:

  • Annotated Bibliography - the author is reading and reporting on sources
  • Articles written after an event has occurred which use information from multiple sources
  • Websites which analyze or summarize information from primary sources
  • Many social media posts
  • Books about a topic which use other sources and list their sources in a bibliography.
  • Reviews
  • Essays

Tertiary - Information that is many times removed from the source (i.e. compiled from other sources.)  Examples include:

  • Wikipedia (or any encyclopedia)
  • Many popular magazine articles
  • Websites which re-package information from another website. (Trace the information back to get a closer source!)

Whether something is primary or secondary does not indicate how scholarly the information is.  You have to evaluate the information and the source.

  •  A Tweet is a primary source, but it's not scholarly.
  • An academic book on a topic is a secondary source, but it is scholarly.


How do I know which database to use for my research?

Finding the right database can be overwhelming.  Some databases are good for almost any subject, some databases only include information on a narrow topic.

 A to Z Database List: This is page a list of ALL our databases in alphabetical order by name, with brief descriptions of each database.  Use the pull-down menus at the top of the page to narrow your choices by subject, type, or vendor.  You can also search by name.

 Research Guides by Subject: This page lists all the different subject areas our databases cover.  This groups the databases on a specific subject together (i.e. Education) If you're not sure what subject to use Ask a Librarian or start with the broad databases on the first page of this guide.