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Style guides

APA Style (An online guide from Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL))

MLA Style (An online guide from Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL))

Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, 2003

Tools for Managing Your Bibliographies and Citations

Northwestern supports a number software can help you keep track of your reading and notes and automatically format citations while you write. Information on workshops, using and troubleshooting them with Northwestern resources is available through a series of guides. 

Using Your Sources

When evaluating a source of information, consider both the content of the source itself and the context in which the source was created.  


  •  What does it say? What is its main point or argument? Relevance to your topic? What new information, facts, or opinions does it include? 
  •  Where did you find it? Where was it published? 
  •  When was it written? Within the past few days, weeks, or years? Is it historical? Has its information changed over time? 
  •  Who created this information? What are their credentials? 
  •  Why does this source exist? Is its purpose to inform, persuade, or entertain? 
  •  How does it incorporate data or evidence? What kinds of evidence?


  •  What is the audience for this source? General readers, people who work in a specific field, academics? Does it assume previous knowledge? 
  •  Where can you find other information about this topic? 
  •  When was this information last updated? Has it been revised, redacted, or challenged? 
  •  Who is missing from the conversation? Does it include opposing viewpoints, marginalized voices, or global perspectives? 
  •  Why do you need this information? Is it for an academic assignment, work project, personal decision-making, or to share with others?* 
  •  How did the information find you?  Was it through a relevance-ranked search, social media algorithm, advertising cookie, or press release? 

 *Sources that may be appropriate for sharing with others, deepening personal understanding, or decision-making may not be appropriate for an academic assignment or work presentation. When in doubt, check with your librarian or professor for more guidance! 

Adapted from Beyond the Source created by the DePaul University Libraries.

Not all "articles" are the same! They have different purposes and different "architecture".

  • Original article – information based on original research
  • Case reports – usually of a single case
  • Technical notes -  describe a specific technique or procedure
  • Pictorial essay – teaching article with images
  • Review – detailed analysis of recent research on a specific topic
  • Commentary – short article with author’s personal opinions
  • Editorial – often short review or critique of original articles
  • Letter to the Editor – short & on subject of interest to readers

Peh, WCG and NG, KH. (2008) "Basic Structure and Types of Scientific Papers."
Singapore Medical Journal, 48 (7) : 522-525. accessed 4/24/19.

Primary sources provide the raw data you use to support your arguments. Some common types of primary resources include manuscripts, diaries, court cases, maps, data sets, experiment results, news stories, polls, or original research.  One other way to think about primary sources is the author was there.

Secondary sources analyze primary sources, using primary source materials to answer research questions.  Secondary sources may analyze, criticize, interpret or summarize data from primary sources. The most common secondary resources are books, journal articles, or reviews of the literature. 

Depending on the subject in which you are doing your research, what counts as a primary or secondary source can vary!  Here are some examples of types of sources that relate to dragons in different disciplines:

If your class is in... Primary Source Example Secondary Source Example
English Beowulf More About the Fight With the Dragon

The Tello Obelisk (photo)

Encounters with Dragons: The Stones from Chavin
Biology Dragon's Blood Exerts Cardio-Protection Against Myocardial Injury... Dragon's Blood Secretion and Its Ecological Significance

There are many types of primary resources, so it is important to define your parameters by:

  • Discipline (e.g. art, history, physics, political science)
  • Format (e.g. book, manuscript, map, photograph)
  • Type of information you need (e.g. numerical data, images, polls, government reports, letters)
  • Date range

Look at the Primary and Secondary Sources guide for more clarification on what primary and secondary sources are in different disciplines!