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QUEST Research Model: Step 2: Understand


Quest Model (Understand)

The Information Cycle

Information Cycle & Types Sources

UNDERSTAND: What will help me most?

Before beginning your research ask yourself these questions.

What kind of information will you need?

Do you want facts? Opinions? News reports? Research Studies? Analyses? Personal reflections? History? Primary sources?

Where are you likely to find this information?

Which sources are most likely to be useful? Research databases? Academic journals? Newspapers? Government records? The Internet?

How much information do you need?

How many sources of information are you looking for?  Do you need to view both sides of the issue?

How do you find what you are looking for?

How do you select specific keywords, terms, and phrases in research databases and search engines?

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

Primary Sources are documents or artifacts that have an immediate, first-hand view of an experience, research, experiment, or work of art. Examples include letters, diaries, speeches, novels, movies, songs, interviews, paintings, laws, photographs, eye-witness accounts, or research studies detailing an experiment. 

Secondary Sources are those works that often comment on or interpret the primary sources. Examples include literary criticism, articles summarizing research studies, biography and history books, reviews.


  Primary Source   Secondary Source
  Art The Kiss(Lovers), oil and gold leaf on canvas  biography on Gustav Klimt 
  Literature  Crime and Punishment (novel)  criticism essay on Dostoevsky
  History  The Patriot Act public law  newspaper editorial on the Patriot Act's  effect on privacy
  Science  Study published in peer reviewed journal (often includes methods, results, conclusion)   Popular magazine or news report summarizing findings of that study


Types of Sources



U-High/ISU Catalog

  • Use to find these types of sources




  • Looking for lots of information on a topic
  • To find historical information
  • To find summaries of research to support an argument




  • Opposing Viewpoints
  • Lexis Nexis
  • Gale Virtual Reference
  • JStor
  • CQ Researcher
  • World Book Encyclopedia

Research databases provide access to many different types of sources including:



  • Articles written for non-experts
  • Analysis of current events
  • Personal narratives and opinions
  • interviews of well-known people
  • Reviews of products, movies and performances



Academic Journals:

  • Original research
  • Critical analysis
  • Review of prior research (Literature review)
  • Often peer reviewed
  • Intended for experts


  • Current information about international, national and local events
  • Editorials, commentaries, expert or popular opinions
  • Breaking news
  • Investigative reports


  • Background information about a topic
  • Find key ideas, important dates or concepts
  • Statistics, charts, tables
  • Maps