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Library Orientation Tutorial: Unit 1.2: Finding Information

What are the different types of formats and how do you decide which resource to use?

You may be familiar with the terminology, Information Age, which refers to the time we currently live where information is widespread and easy to access.  Information is the content that is digested by individuals who transfer it into knowledge.  Because information is available in many formats and seemingly easy to come by (“let’s Google that!”), it can often be difficult to find the right information to use in course assignments.  Understanding and evaluating information sources can help save time and effort when searching for useful and credible information; The type of resource you select depends on the kind of information you need.

Types of Formats:

Infographic showing types of sources, including books, periodicals, media, and websites

Books: eBooks, audio books and print; Periodicals: newspapers, magazines and journals; Media: images, video and audio; Websites: government, education and companies.

Which tools should you use to find these resources in the Pellissippi State Library?


The print books, most of which are located in the stacks on the second floor of the Hardin Valley library, are known as the “circulating collection” and may be checked out by currently enrolled students. The Pellissippi libraries also subscribe to thousands of eBooks, which are accessible 24/7 through OneSearch. These include multi-disciplinary eBooks, and subject-specific collections, such as Safari Tech Books Online and Knovel Technology eBooks. A smaller but growing collection is audio books, which can be downloaded to desktop computers, laptops, or other electronic devices.

Reference books, such as encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks, atlases, and almanacs are for in-library use only. There are, however, hundreds of reference eBooks that can be accessed 24/7 from any location through the libraries' website.


To find individual articles in periodicals, use the Databases A-Z available under "Find" on the libraries' website, or to search for articles from magazines, journals, and newspapers all at once, use OneSearch on the libraries' home page.

Magazines, journals, and newspapers are different types of periodicals and contain different kinds of information.

Infographic showing types of periodicals, including Newspapers, Magazines, and Journals.

There are many databases that focus on specific disciplines, such as psychology, biology, literature, or sociology.  If you want to do in-depth research about mental illness, for example, you may want to search PsychArticles, a subject-specific database for psychology.  To find subject-specific databases, use the drop-down menu labeled "All Subjects" on the Databases A-Z page. Selecting a subject area from the drop-down will narrow your list of databases to those which focus on or contain that subject area.  There is also a Journal Finder search for finding specific magazines, newspapers, and scholarly journals.


Media is available in many databases, and can be accessed via OneSearch or through individual databases.  

Images, such as photographs and illustrations, films and videos, and audio recordings, such as speeches, interviews, and music are all considered media.  In addition to media held on the campuses, Pellissippi subscribes to databases that provide remote access to hundreds of images, videos, and audio recordings. 


Websites can also be useful for doing research, however students should understand that much of the information on the internet is NOT reliable or suitable for citing a research paper. 

You must be able to discern between websites that are commercial in nature and designed to sell products or services, and websites designed for disseminating authoritative and reliable information. Websites that are published by the government and educational institutions tend to be more reliable than websites published by corporations or private individuals. We will expand on this topic later in unit IV: Evaluating Websites.