HNFE 1114 - Orientation to HNFE - FYE: Information Sources

Resources, tools, and techniques for library research in Human Nutrition, Foods, Exercise, and related topics.

HNFE Librarian

Types of Information Sources

Information can come from virtually anywhere — media, blogs, personal experiences, books, journal and magazine articles, expert opinions, encyclopedias, and web pages — and the type of information you need will change depending on the question you are trying to answer. Look at the following sources of information. Notice the similarities between them. 





National Geographic CoverMagazine

A magazine is a collection of articles and images about diverse topics of popular interest and current events. Usually these articles are written by journalists or scholars and are geared toward the average adult. Magazines may cover very "serious" material, but to find consistent scholarly information, you should use journals.

to find information or opinions about popular culture

to find up-to-date information about current events

to find general articles for people who are not necessarily specialists about the topic 

National Geographic


Sports Illustrated


Academy of Nutrition and DieteticsAcademic journal

A journal is a collection of articles usually written by scholars in an academic or professional field. An editorial board reviews articles to decide whether they should be accepted. Articles in journals can cover very specific topics or narrow fields of research.

when doing scholarly research

to find out what has been studied on your topic

to find bibliographies that point to other relevant research

Journal of Communication

The Historian

Journal of the American Medical Association


EBSCOhost interfaceDatabase

A database contains citations of articles in magazines, journals, and newspapers. They may also contain citations to podcasts, blogs, videos, and other media types. Some databases contain abstracts or brief summaries of the articles, while other databases contain complete, full-text articles.

  • when you want to find articles on your topic in magazines, journals or newspapers

Academic Search Complete (a general database

Compendex (an engineering database)

ABI/Inform (a business database


A newspaper is a collection of articles about current events usually published daily. Since there is at least one in every city, it is a great source for local information.

to find current information about international, national and local events

to find editorials, commentaries, expert or popular opinions

Roanoke Times

New York Times

Suddeutsche Zeitung


A library catalog is an organized and searchable collection of records of every item in a library and can be found on the library home page. The catalog will point you to the location of a particular source, or group of sources, that the library owns on your topic.

to find out what items the library owns on your topic

to find where a specific item is located in the library

Virginia Tech's library catalog is called Addison


Books cover virtually any topic, fact or fiction. For research purposes, you will probably be looking for books that synthesize all the information on one topic to support a particular argument or thesis.

Libraries organize and store their book collections on shelves called "stacks."

when looking for lots of information on a topic

to put your topic in context with other important issues

to find historical information

to find summaries of research to support an argument

Nash, Gary B. ed. The American People: Creating a Nation and a Society, 1990.

Silverstone, Roger, ed.Visions of Suburbia,1997.

Smith, J. T.Roman Villas: A Study in Social Structure, 1997


Encyclopedias are collections of short, factual entries often written by different contributors who are knowledgeable about the topic. 

There are two types of encyclopedias: general and subject. General encyclopedias provide concise overviews on a wide variety of topics. Subject encyclopedias contain in-depth entries focusing on one field of study.

when looking for background information on a topic

when trying to find key ideas, important dates or concepts

African-American Encyclopedia(subject encyclopedia)

Encyclopedia Americana(general encyclopedia)

World Book(general encyclopedia found online)

Gale encyclopedia of genetic disorders(subject encyclopedia found online

Web site

The Web allows you to access most types of information on the Internet through a browser. One of the main features of the Web is the ability to quickly link to other related information. The Web contains information beyond plain text, including sounds, images, and video.

The important thing to do when using information on the Internet is to know how to evaluate it!

to find current information

to find information about companies

to find information from all levels of government - federal to local

to find both expert and popular opinions

to find information about hobbies and personal interests (The Library of Congress) (a wiki) (Virginia Tech

Creative Commons License
Research portal pages' text and linked PDFs by Virginia Tech Libraries is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. (Cover and other images are not included in the CC license and are used under Fair Use.)


What is Peer Review?

Peer reviewed articles may also be called "scholarly" or "refereed."  The term peer review refers to an editorial process in which experts from a particular discipline scrutinize articles before they are published by a journal.  Watch the video below for a good overview of what these articles are, and why you should know about and use them.

Many thanks to our friends at NC State University for creating such a fantastic video!

Determining Peer Review

Trying to figure out if an article you have is peer reviewed?  Here are some steps you can follow to determine that!

1. Check the journal's website, and see if it refers to using the peer review process.

2. Use Ulrich's Periodical Directory, a database that will give you all sorts of information about a journal, including whether or not it uses the peer review process.

3. Read the article closely, and see if it adheres to rigorous research principles!