As you decide which sources to look at more closely think about these ideas.
Be sure you do some skimming before you print anything off or haul books back to your dorm room. Quite often, a source that seems to be exactly on your topic turns out to be not very helpful after all. You don't want to discover that when you're sitting down to write a paper that's due tomorrow.
Quite often you will be expected to use "scholarly" or "peer-reviewed" sources. How can you tell whether a source is scholarly? Look for these indicators.
Though many databases let you limit a search to scholarly articles, those limiters aren't foolproof. As an example, they will include book reviews, which are not reporting original research. Take a look at "Anatomy of a Scholarly Article" from North Carolina State University Library.
One of the reasons Gustavus requires at least one Writing in the Disciplines (WRITD) courses is because styles are different for in different majors. Scholarly sources do not all look the same. Scholarly articles in history are usually longer than those in physics journals. Articles in chemistry often have color illustrations and their journals carry advertising, but you won't find many color illustrations or advertisements in literary criticism journals. In sociology and psychology, articles almost always have abstracts, but you rarely see them in art history or religion articles. Though they look different, all fundamentally are the work of scholars reporting their findings to extend what we know about the world.
One of the most powerful ways to find valuable sources and assess their signifcance is to follow the breadcrumb trail left by scholars in their published work. When researchers cite sources, they are bolstering their argument by providing evidence, but also pointing readers to places they can go for more information. Take them up on it!
In addition to references in books and articles, the bibliographies found in specialized reference works will point you to the most significant research on a topic, an efficient shortcut to the best stuff.
Once you see a reference that looks good, how do you get your hands on it? Here's a quick checklist.