Types of Information Sources
Primary vs. Secondary Sources
Primary sources are firsthand or eyewitness accounts. They present the actual evidence of an event without any analysis or interpretation. Primary sources include diaries, letters, legal or court documents, laws, speeches, statistics, journals, original research documents, and the like.
Secondary sources analyze, interpret, retell, explain, or critique primary sources.
Scholarly vs. Popular Sources
Scholarly sources are written by the experts in the subject matter. They are often written for use by other scholars, researchers, or serious students of the subject. They often use language that is specific to that discipline. They usually include in-text citations or footnotes and a works cited or bibliography. They are often peer-reviewed, meaning the article has been anonymously reviewed by a panel of experts in the topic before it has been accepted for publication. They are usually published by a professional organization, research center, or scholarly press.
Popular sources are written for a more general audience, not necessarily expert in the topic. They are often written by journalists or others who are not professionals in the field. They are written in easy to understand language; they do not use technical jargon. Although they may have footnotes and/or citations, they are usually not as extensive. There may be little or no editorial review.
Popular sources should not necessarily be seen as less worthy than scholarly. They are often very reputable sources of information that has been distilled so that it can be easily understood by the non-professional. Each source must be judged individually.
Print Sources vs. Online Sources vs. Web Sources
Print sources are those that exist in a hard copy format such as a book, printed magazine, or a DVD.
Online sources are electronic versions of items that originally existed in a hard copy format. Although they may be delivered in a web based format, they are not necessarily "web sites". For example, articles located in the Library's databases are online copies of items that usually have a hard copy version.
Web sources are sources that exist only in a web-based format; there is no hard copy version.