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Search for Information: Types of Information

How to search effectively in Library resources for retrieving relevant information

What is Information?

It has been a long-held belief by many philosophers that knowledge is power and that knowledge stems from understanding of information; information, in turn, is the assigning of meaning to data.


Adapted from

Types of Information

What kind of information do you need to answer your research question? For topics you are unfamiliar with a good search Research Strategy is to begin with secondary sources in magazines, newspapers, and reference materials since they are written for a general audience. Next find primary literature in journals to provide sound scientific evidence to support your research question.


scheme types of information

Adapted from

  • Documentary sources may be defined loosely as records relating to individuals or groups of individuals that have been generated in the course of their daily lives. They supply empirical evidence that can support sociological theories. The golden rule when using such sources is to search out the context and to understand why the document was created.
  • Non-documentary sources of information are those sources that are not recorded in any form. You may obtain information by interview or by visiting expert organizations (research institutions, societies, professional organizations, scientists, attending conferences, colleagues at work, etc.)
Source Type Explanation
Reference Material
  • Example: encyclopedia, dictionary, directories
  • Look up facts, definitions, dates, figures
News Sources
  • Online and print
  • Current events, obituaries, advertisements, opinion pieces
  • Usually general interest and current events
  • Written for a public audience
Academic Journals
  • Usually peer-reviewed and include citations
  • Written by experts for experts
  • Can be fact or fiction
  • Good for in-depth background information and analysis
  • Can take many years to publish so not good for current events
  • A document to prove copyright over an idea or invention
  • Useful for background information
  • Video, Audio, Maps
  • Communication for a general audience

The source types can also have characteristics that are important to understand when using them in your work.


The results of original research or observation

  • Articles
  • Diaries, speeches, letters, interviews,
  • Autobiographies
  • Lab Notes

Analyzes primary works by providing opinion or commentary

  • Textbooks
  • Magazines
  • Criticisms

Encyclopedias and Dictionaries are considered tertiary sources

Popular Written for a general audience and can usually be found alongside advertisements and pictures
Scholarly Written by experts in the field usually with academic vocabulary
Grey Literature

Material produced outside of traditional publishing

  • Company reports
  • Working papers
  • Technical Manuals

Reference Sources


If you are looking information out




General information / Overview


Names and addresses of people, organizations


Profiles of people

Biographical Dictionaries

Places /  maps

Gazetteers or Atlases

Facts and statistics


Formula, tables, how-to-do-it

Handbooks and Manuals

A person’s work

Reviews or Criticisms

Dates, outlines, historical timelines

Chronologies or Yearbooks

Periodical articles

Indexes or Abstracts


Bibliographies or Guides


Know More About Journals

Information is..

“Data presented in readily comprehensible form to which meaning has been attributed within the context of its use.” (ODLIS)

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