Types of Information Sources
After you’ve chosen your topic and developed a research question, it’s time to begin searching for information.
But before you begin you should understand all the different types
of sources available to you and the kind of information you’ll find within. This will help you make the right choices in support of your research. There are three broad categories of information: primary, secondary, and tertiary. Primary sources are original materials on which other research is based. Depending on the discipline, this could be first-hand accounts of historical events or raw uninterpreted data. Examples of primary sources include newspapers, letters and diaries, interviews, speeches, poems, raw data, and even original artwork. Secondary sources discuss interpret or analyze primary sources and other secondary sources. Some examples include literary reviews or criticisms, magazines, journal articles, and books that review and discuss original research. Tertiary sources are collections of primary and secondary sources. It can be overviews or summaries of topics as well as index or directories of sources. Examples include encyclopedias and dictionaries, almanacs, or print and online indexes When choosing sources it’s important to understand the kind of information you will find within. This includes the depth and scope, who it’s written by and for, and the currency. Newspaper articles are written by journalists and reporters and meant for the general public. They report on local and international current events. They are published on a daily and weekly basis and range in length from a paragraph to a couple of pages. Magazine articles are also written by journalists and meant for the general public. But sometimes they’re also written by essayists or specialists. The topics are usually current affairs as well as popular topics and trends. They’re published weekly and monthly and the article length ranges from one page to 10 pages. Academic journal articles are written by scholars and researchers, and they’re written for other scholars and students. They report on original research or detailed analysis of a topic. They are published monthly, quarterly, and sometimes yearly, and the length ranges from 10 to 50 pages. Today with so many self-publishing options available anyone can write and publish a book so make sure to look at the author and the publisher. In general books usually take an in-depth look at a topic, but sometimes they can also be compilation of articles or essays written by various authors. They can be published months or years after an event has occurred and are usually 150 pages or more. Reference resources such as encyclopedias and dictionaries are usually written by scholars or specialists. They offer broad overviews of topics and range in length from a couple of paragraphs to several pages. Websites can be written by and for anyone on any topic at any time. If you have any questions about what sources are available to you or what’s appropriate for your research topic, you can always ask a librarian in person or online.