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Information Literacy Tutorial

A module-based information literacy tutorial that addresses each stage of the research process, including selecting a topic, identifying information needs, selecting sources, locating information, evaluating information, and citing sources.

Types of Information

Acknowledgement: This section borrows extensively from original PILOT material © 2009 by Sacramento City College Library. 

Sources of Information

Depending on what KIND of information you need (eg, detailed, overview, current, historic, statistical, graphic), these are useful sources:





Encyclopedias, also known as Reference Works, contain factual articles on many subjects. There are two types of encyclopedias -- general and subject.
General encyclopedias provide overviews on a wide variety of topics.
Subject encyclopedias contain entries focusing on one field of study.

Use an Encyclopedia

  • when looking for background information on a topic

  • when trying to find key ideas, important dates or concepts


  • McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology (subject encyclopedia)

  • Encyclopedia Americana (general encyclopedia)




Journal articles are written by scholars in an academic or professional field. They may cover very specific topics or narrow fields of research.

An editorial board reviews articles to decide whether they should be published. Journals that go through this process are called peer reviewed or refereed journals.  Your lecturer will expect that you use peer reviewed sources for your assignments.

Since journals are published at periodic intervals, eg, 12 times or 4 times a year, they are grouped in the category called "periodicals."

They may be in print format or on the Web as electronic journals. You can access many journals using the online databases that the Library purchases.

Use a Journal

  • to do scholarly research
  • to find out what has been published about your topic
  • to find bibliographies that point to other relevant research

Examples of Journals

  • Journal of Communication
  • The Historian
  • Cognition & Emotion 




Magazines publish articles on topics of popular interest and current events. The articles are written by journalists and are for the general public.

Magazines, like journals and newspapers, are called "periodicals" because they are published at regular intervals throughout the year. You can find print magazines at CNA or supermarkets and in libraries. Some are now available on the Web as electronic magazines.

Use a Magazine

  • to find information or opinions about popular culture
  • to find up-to-date information about current events
  • to find general articles written for people who are not necessarily specialists in the topic area.

Examples of Magazines

  • U.S. News and World Report
  • Wired
  • Business Week




Books cover virtually any topic, fact or fiction. You may find books that address your research question, but only a chapter or two is relevant. It's not cheating to read and use only the chapters that relate to your topic.  Use the Index at the end of the book to find pages that deal specifically with your topic.


Use a Book

  • to find an extensive amount 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

  • to find bibliographies that point to other relevant research


  • Singer, F. S. Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1500 Years, 2007

  • Zittrain, J. The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It, 2008

  •  Smith, J. The Gay Rights Movement, 2003.




Databases guide you to relevant articles in magazines, journals and newspapers. Some periodical databases contain abstracts or brief summaries of the articles. Many contain the full text (entire content) of articles as they originally appeared in the periodical.

Online periodical databases, purchased by the library, are accessible from the library homepage

Use a Periodical Database

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

Examples of Periodical Databases

  • Academic Search Premier (a general periodical database)
  • JSTOR (a humanities and social sciences periodical database)
  • Project Muse (a literature periodical database)



Each day, newspapers provide articles about current events. These articles may cover local, national, and international news.

Newspapers, like journals and magazines, are called periodicals because they are published regularly, or periodically.  The Library stores newspapers for three months. There are databases of newspaper articles for older news reports.

Use a Newspaper

  • to find current information about international, national and local events

  • to find editorials, commentaries, and expert or popular opinions


  • Mail & Guardian

  • Cape Argus

  •  Sowetan 



The Web

The Web allows you to access information on the Internet through a browser e.g. Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox. One of the main features of the Web is the ability to link quickly to other related information.

Use the Web

  • to find current information
  • to link to information provided by the library over the Internet, such as library catalogs and library databases
  • to find information about companies
  • to find information from all levels of government 
  • to find both expert and popular opinions

Examples of Web Addresses

  • (Government of South Africa)
  • (Mail & Guardian)
  • (Google, a search engine)

Primary sources are generally first-person accounts, original creative works, and raw data; however, what constitutes a primary source varies by discipline.  A scholar in the humanities may use a newspaper photograph or a poem as a primary source while a scientist might use data from an experiment or an artifact from an archaeological dig.

Note the difference between primary sources and secondary sources.  Secondary sources comment upon, explain, or interpret primary sources. They may include scholary books, journal and magazine articles, encyclopedias, dictionaries, biographies, revies, and textbooks.


Government publications are issued by local, state, national, or international governments.  Government information includes laws, regulations, statistics, consumer information, and much more. Government information is generally considered to be reliable. Much of it is online. Click here to access the Government Documents @ University of the Western Cape Library.





University of the Western Cape,

Robert Sobukwe Road,



Tel: 021 959 2946