Sources and Information Needs

a map and compass

It’s easier to find appropriate sources when you start with a plan.

This section and the section on Types of Sources work together. That’s because knowing the kinds of information in each category of sources will help you choose the right kind of information to meet each of your information needs. And some of those needs are very specific.

Information needs are why you require sources. Meeting those needs is what you will do with sources as you complete your research project.

Here are those needs:

  • To learn more background information.
  • To answer your research question(s).
  • To convince your audience that your answer is correct or, at least, the most reasonable answer.
  • To describe the situation surrounding your research question for your audience and explain why it’s important.
  • To report what others have said about your question, including any different answers to your research question.

The verbs in the list of information needs above tell you exactly how you’ll use sources to carry out your research and create your final product: to learn, answer, convince, describe, and report. But you won’t be doing any of that alone.

Your sources will give you information with which to reason. They’ll also give you direct quotes and information to summarize and paraphrase as you create your final product. In other words, your sources will support you every step of the way during your research project.

Needs and Final Products

Background information may seldom appear directly in any final product. But meeting each of the other information needs will result in written sections of a research paper. For final products other than papers, you’ll have the same needs and will use sources to meet them. But not all needs will result in a section of your final product.


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Critical Thinking in Academic Research Copyright © 2022 by Cindy Gruwell and Robin Ewing is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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