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Information Sources: Types of Information and Information Sources

This guide will assist you in choosing the best sources for your information needs.

Types of Information

Factual

Information that is short and non-explanatory and solely deals with facts. Found in encyclopedias, almanacs, and on government sites such as Statistics Canada

Example: Canada is comprised of 10 provinces and 3 territories.

Analytical  

The interpretation of factual information; the type of information that researchers generate in their studies. Found in books and journals.

Example: Based on crash statistics, the Province of Nova Scotia designated the road as dangerous.

Subjective

Information from only one point of view such as an opinion. Found in  books, journals, websites and book reviews.

Example: Going to that movie is a waste of time! 

Objective

Information that is understood from multiple viewpoints and presents all sides of an argument.  Found in reference books, and newspapers that have balanced and fair reporting. Opposing Viewpoints and Facts on File are both great objective databases.

Example: While many people don't like winter, some look forward to the season so they can ski and play hockey.

(Dean B. Ellis Library, 2017)

Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Sources

Primary sources

Original documents that were created during the studied period of time.

Examples in the Humanities (literature, language, history, philosophy):

  • Birth or death registries / censuses / letters / historic treaties / interviews / maps / newspapers / novels / paintings / period artifacts /  photographs/ poems /statistics / surveys / testimonies / videos, etc.

Examples in the Sciences:

  • Articles or theses detailing an original study / case notes or observations / clinical exams / conferences / experimental protocols / industrial drawings / lab notes / patents / the periodic table / raw data sets or results /technical reports or forms, etc.

Secondary sources

Analytical documents that interpret primary sources. Using peer-reviewed publications is recommended, and avoid using internet sources except for government websites, websites of reputable associations or websites approved by the instructor.

Examples:

  • Books, electronic resources, memoirs, monographs, peer-reviewed articles, and theses.

Tertiary sources

Descriptive documents that compile or index primary and secondary sources. Tertiary sources aid in the identification of sources rather than the evaluation of their content.

Examples:

  • Bibliographies, encyclopedic articles, indexes and registers, library catalogues, and specialized databases.

Source Types: Primary, Secondary and Tertiary

Columbus State Library. (2021, February 17). Source types [Video]. You Tube. https://youtu.be/_k3K1mI_ui0