Deciding on Types of Evidence

It can be easy to fall into a research rut, returning again and again to the same types of sources and the same means of searching for sources. Your search should be based not on your familiarity with particular indexes or journals, but on the topic and thesis and on what types of evidence are required for a complete and balanced discussion.

If you are unsure what types of evidence are appropriate for your discipline, during lectures, seminars, or labs, note what relevant articles or books are listed in your syllabus or referred to by the prof; also try to notice what other types of sources he or she mentions while llecturing or discussing to learn the range of potential sources commonly used in the discipline: are they court documents, maps, import and export data, old photographs, poetry, dictionaries, diagnostic manuals, best practice documents, laboratory manuals, interviews, survey data? Keep in mind that primary sources offer important evidence often not available in the secondary sources students often rely on.

Reference librarians can help you find different types of sources, many of which are available in special departments of the library or subscription-based online databases. Only students enrolled at an iinstitution can access material from such subscription-based sources without paying fees. Many of these resources are also available in print iin your library.



A paper on wildlife management in provincial parks compares management plans dealing with deer overpopulation at Rondeau and Komoka Provincial Parks.

Types of sources could include:

  • Scholarly literature on plans – theoretical foundations, effectiveness, costs
  • Park management plans – Rondeau and Komoka
  • Reports on wildlife populations – data (over time)
  • Reports on problem populations – official reports, anecdotal data (letters to editor/newspaper articles, interviews with park employees)
  • Maps
  • Hunting permit data









Once you discover a few good sources, you can more easily identify other useful sources or types of evidence.

Trent students can take advantage of the research help availale at Bata Library.You can contact a librarian to ask your questions about research. A librarian will help you with selection and use of books, databases, maps, archival documents, and other library resources and services. He or she will discuss your search strategies and any other questions you have about the library and finding information on a topic.


Exercise One: Choosing your Research Direction


Back to Preliminary Research