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Research Skills Tutorial

This is a self-paced, non-credit course that covers research skills, critical thinking, media and internet literacy, and understanding the complexities of the modern information environment (including libraries.)

Information Sources for Different Audiences and Purposes

Intended Audience

Information sources are created for different audiences, and that can affect both their content and style. For example, an encyclopedia of medicine written for doctors will use different language, style and structure than a medical encyclopedia written for:

  • pre-med college students
  • a general audience of adults
  • middle school children.

The video below describes the differences you may encounter between information sources intended for different audiences as well as how that should factor into your decision to use those information sources.

You also need to take into account whether the creator of the information source felt that their intended audience was like-minded or not. For example, a speech about a religious topic given by a preacher to his own congregation will likely be structured differently and use different language than the same speech given by the same preacher to a group of hostile or uninterested strangers on the street. The former might sound like a series of affirmations, while the latter might sound more like an argument, debate or persuasive essay.

Intended Purpose

It is important to keep in mind the intended effect of an information source, because that can inform what information it contains and how reliable that information is. Also, you should be aware of any effects the information source is having on your emotional state and your opinions.

Common intended purposes for information sources are:

  • To inform and/or educate 
  • To entertain, inspire or stir up emotion
  • To sell something or raise funds
  • To change people's minds (persuade)
  • To encourage a certain action or behavior
  • To comment or satirize
  • To build or maintain social connections.

A single information source can have multiple overlapping purposes, which can (sometimes intentionally) mislead readers as to its true purpose.

The video below describes the variety of information sources you may encounter, each with different intended effects, as well as how that should factor into your decision to use those information sources. 

Accessibility Note

Please note: If you need to request accommodations with content linked to on this guide, on the basis of a disability, please contact Accessibility Resources and Services by emailing them at  Requests for accommodations should be submitted as early as possible to allow for sufficient planning. If you have questions, please visit the Accessibility Resources and Services website