Skip to Main Content

Constitution Day: Scholarly vs Non-Scholarly Materials

The Atlanta University Center has been a Federal Depository Library since 1962. This program, administered by the Government Publishing Office, allows libraries to obtain federal government publications while agreeing to maintain the collection.

Helpful Resources

Steps When Searching The Databases

Steps for Searching Databases

  1. Enter your search term (see the Search Strategy Builder below) into a search box 
  2. Set LIMITS and SEARCH:
    1. Date
    2. Peer-reviewed, when necessary
    3. Document type: scholarly, newspapers, magazines, etc.
    4. Language
    5. Geography
    6. Subject (see more...)
  3. Scan article titles
  4. REFINE if necessary by changing search terms with synonyms and repeat SEARCH
  5. Scan article titles
  7. Select, Email, Save, Print, Import

Scholary vs Non Scholarly Video

What Is A Primry Source

What is a Primary Source?

A primary source is a document or physical object which was written or created during the time under study. These sources were present during an experience or time period and offer an inside view of a particular event. Some types of primary sources include:

  • ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS (excerpts or translations acceptable): Diaries, speeches, manuscripts, letters, interviews, news film footage, autobiographies, official records 
  • CREATIVE WORKS: Poetry, drama, novels, music, art 
  • RELICS OR ARTIFACTS: Pottery, furniture, clothing, buildings

Examples of primary sources include:

  • Diary of Anne Frank - Experiences of a Jewish family during WWII 
  • The Constitution of Canada - Canadian History 

Robert W. Woodruff Library Databases with Primary Sources

What is a Secondary Source? 
A secondary source interprets and analyzes primary sources. These sources are one or more steps removed from the event. Secondary sources may have pictures, quotes or graphics of primary sources in them. Some types of secondary sources include:

  • PUBLICATIONS: Textbooks, magazine articles, histories, criticisms, commentaries, encyclopedias 

Tips When Searching The Internet

1. Everything Is Not On the Internet The Internet consists of a small percentage of what’s published. Search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo access are limited. The most reliable scholarly information is available in books and journals.  Preliminary steps to find the appropriate search terms should start with online catalogs and subject heading found in databases.  

2. The Internet Is Not Organized

There is not a system that catalogs and organizes all resources on the Internet.   A search on the Internet is similar to searching an unclassified catalog.  When you use any of the search engines, you’re searching only part of the Internet.  Searches are not always relevant to your topic and can cause a lot of wasted time, frustration and confusion

3. The Internet Doesn’t Have Quality Control

Quality control isn’t easy to achieve on the Internet.  Open Source information on the Internet is quite common and easy to get misinformed information. Anyone with access to the Internet can publish a Website.

4. Sources on the Internet are Harder to Identify

Information on the WWW is hard to tell who’s telling you what and where is the location of the information. When you use information in your paper from the Internet, it’s important to print it out and cite your sources.   Information taken from the Web can change overnight.  Information taken from the library or databases in the library gives the exact location.  One must give full documentation when using information from a site.  


  • Anyone can publish on the internet
  • There are no editors to review or to organize the information
  • Not all information is indexed and often it is not indexed at all. There are formulas to prioritize info so not always the best is first.
  • The Internet is growing faster than anyone could imagine!


Adapted from Mark Herring’s 10 Reasons Why the Internet is No Substitute for a Library , American Libraries, April 2001, p.76-78.