Sources of Information

Sources of information are those databases, websites, books, journals and magazines, user manuals, booklets, and such other materials or resources that provide knowledge. Among all these resources of information, is there any distinction?

Are government websites, news websites, e-commerce, academic sites, and all other sites in one category or is there any distinction between them? In this article, we will find what is the distinction or classification between these resources.

Let’s first reconsider which are some common information sources.

  • Books
  • Journals and magazines
  • Newspaper
  • Online resources
  • Government documents
  • Personal interviews
  • Audio and video recordings
  • Artefacts and objects of historical importance

Also read: Why Evaluate Information Sources

Now that you are reminded about some of the information resources you could have encountered at some point of time; we can move ahead to find the classification of information sources.

Sources of Information

Primary Sources

These sources are those materials that have original information from reliable and authorised persons or organisations. These materials could be in any form; either on paper, digital or audio-video.

New discoveries by scientists, white papers, Press conference reports, seminar reports, manuscripts, interviews, photographs, official documents, speeches, journals, research papers, surveys, and other materials that are not regurgitated and are original.

Such types of materials are unfiltered, untempered and in their original forms. 

Also read: Types of Nonfiction

Secondary Sources

These are sources that are based on primary sources. This means that they are not original, rather they are explained, analysed, reviewed or summarized information from the original source. 

A secondary source could give an overview of something that has already exists from before. So they provide background information, brief information or opinions and reviews of something. These sources may or not be written by a subject expert. 

Also read: Difference Between Fact and Opinion

These secondary sources could be biased and report the original source with a limited scope or twisted way. So you must always consult the original or authorised and reliable primary source whenever accessing sensitive or valuable information.

Examples of secondary sources are books, scholarly articles based on one or many primary sources, and newspaper/magazine articles that discuss or analyse events and issues. 

Meta-analysis is studies that combine the results of multiple studies on the same topic in order to give a fuller picture of the topic; for instance, a synthesis of various studies of the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines. These are also secondary sources. 

Biographies of personalities written by another author, based on several other sources,  are also secondary sources. 

Tertiary Sources

These are resources that are based on several primary and secondary sources. Tertiary sources are reference books, indexes and dictionaries that give an overview and a compilation of vast subject areas. 

A resource that is an essence of several primary and secondary sources is a tertiary source. For instance, an Encyclopedia of Women in World History.

Dictionaries, concise handbooks, yearbooks, almanacs, and directories are examples of tertiary information sources. 


Primary, secondary, and tertiary information sources are all important tools you need to gather information for a specific purpose. To do good research, it’s important to understand the differences between these sources and use them in the right way. You should look at a wide range of sources to get a full understanding of your chosen topic.

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