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UMW Libraries
Simpson Library | Special Collections

Field Guide to Research Sources

What type of source did you find? Use this field guide to identify it.


What they are: Documents created by particular organizations, reporting on particular issues.


What they give you: Basic facts about an issue, and analysis of that issue.

Note: Some reports are neutral, but not all of them are. If a report argues for one side of a controversial issue, it's up to you to evaluate the argument and respond to it.


How to spot them:

  • They are usually published online, often in PDF format.
  • They are usually created by a particular organization, such as a company, a non-profit, an NGO, or a think tank.
  • Sometimes they have the same publication info as an ebook, but the "publisher" is just the organization that created the report.
  • They usually have high-quality graphic design, with lots of images.
  • They support the agendas (and the biases) of the organizations that create them.


What they look like in Quest: 
(Note that Quest doesn't have a "Report" icon, so they show up with some other icon, usually "Book" or "Journal.")
Screenshot of a report as it appears in a list of Quest search results


What they look like online (in PDF format, as is typical):
Screenshot of a report in PDF format


What they look like in print:A printed copy of a report