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Types of Information &

Information Sources

Created by Kate Manuel (kmanuel@lib.nmsu.edu)

Types of Information
 Information is commonly divided into
 fact v. opinion (analytic information)
 objective v. subjective information
 primary v. secondary information
 popular v. scholarly v. trade information
Types of Information
 Content – the distinction between fact &
opinion, objective & subjective, and
primary & secondary is largely a matter of
information’s content
 Audience – the distinction between
popular, scholarly & trade is one of
audience as much as of content
Types of information
 These types are not exclusive
 Information can be:
 primary & opinion/analytic

 subjective & popular

 secondary & scholarly

 etc.
Fact v. Opinion
 A fact is “the  An opinion/analytic
information is a personal
statement of a thing view or judgement based
done or existing.” on what seems to be true,
 E.g., Toni Morrison’s or an interpretation of fact.
book Song of Solomon  E.g., Song of Solomon is
the best book Toni
was published in 1977. Morrison has written.
 E.g., The New York  E.g., The 1999 Yankees
Yankees won the 1999 were as good as the
World Series. Yankees of Babe Ruth or
Joe DiMaggio.
Objective v. Subjective
 Objective information presents all sides of a
 E.g., AIDS is transmitted in several ways. Heterosexual
intercourse accounts for 70% of HIV infections
worldwide. Homosexual intercourse and intravenous drug
users sharing contaminated needles also spread the HIV
virus. The virus also can spread from mother to child by
transfer across the placenta or through breast milk. A
number of hemophiliacs were infected from contaminated
blood and blood products before screening procedures
were introduced in the late 1980s.
Objective v. Subjective
 Subjective information provides
opinions/evaluative information on a topic.
 Subjective information commonly does not
provide all sides of a topic.
 E.g., AIDS is transmitted in several ways,
including via homosexual activity. AIDS can thus
be seen as a punishment from God resulting from
homosexuals’ ungodly activities.
Opinion, Or Subjective
 If subjective information sounds like opinion, it is.
 The basic difference is that:
 an opinion is often a brief statement based on what
seems true to a person (e.g., Blue is the best color
for cars), while
 subjective information often involves a lengthier
presentation of information which combines
opinion with an incomplete (not multi-sided)
presentation of a topic.
Primary v. Secondary
 Primary information is  Secondary information is
information in its information “removed” in
some way from its original
original form.
 Primary information  Secondary information
has not been published may include restatements,
elsewhere, put into examinations,
context, interpreted, or interpretations, or
translated. translations.
Primary Information
 What exactly constitutes primary
information can vary by discipline.
 In the sciences, primary information means the original
study and its data.
 E.g., counting the number of Florida panthers
and detailing their age & health conditions.
 In the foreign languages, primary information means
information in the language, not translated into English.
 E.g., Crime & Punishment in Russian is a primary

Primary Information
 In the social sciences & humanities, primary
information can mean information from the time
period/place in question.
 E.g., newspaper articles from 1945 are primary

sources for information about WWII.

 Primary information is also information from “the
source,” or which has not been commented upon.
 E.g., a person’s diary (unedited) is a primary

 The lyrics and notes to a song are primary

Secondary information
 Is basically primary  An English translation of Crime
and Punishment is also a
information that has secondary source, as is:
been put into context,  a 1995 article which shows
interpreted, or what 1945 newspaper articles
translated. can reveal about WWII and
 E.g., a book which discusses quotes from some of them,
how highways impact  a web page commenting on a
populations of large carnivores the text of a person’s diary, or
and uses the data from the
Florida panther study in
 a DJs comments on air about
justifying its conclusions is a the meaning and significance of
secondary source. a particular song.
Types of Information & Types of
Information Sources
 Knowing what type of information you
need can help you find information more
effectively because
 certain types of information sources are
more likely to contain certain types of
 Look for factual information in reference
sources (print or electronic) such as:
 dictionaries
 atlases
 handbooks
 directories
 Books, articles, and web sites are not
efficient ways to find out, e.g., the number
of Vietnamese speakers in the U.S.
Opinions, & Other Subjective
 Books, articles, and Web pages are all
likely sources of opinions & subjective
 Review articles and op-ed pieces in newspapers
and other publications are especially good sources.
 There are even special series like Opposing
Viewpoints which bring together various opinions
on controversial topics.
Objective Information
 Sources may  Can be in books,
include reference articles, or web pages -
sources (print or but the source should
be considered
electronic) such as carefully.
encyclopedias or  Avoid opinion-only
handbooks. sources, like reviews
and op-ed pieces.
Primary & Secondary
 Primary information may be found in an
article or report, an un-translated book,
and/or any resource from the time/place
 Secondary sources may include articles,
books, or web pages.
Types of Information
 An in-class activity to
practice identifying
types of information
and their sources.
Popular, Trade & Scholarly
Popular Trade Scholarly

Glossy paper May be glossy paper Plain paper

Appearance Lots of ads May be color ads B&W illustrations
Ads for everyday Ads for items used in (tables)
products (make up) field Few ads (books)
Professional writers; Professional writers Academics/People
Authorship paid for work OR academics with adv. degrees
Often unpaid NOT paid

Review for style, fact Review for style, fact Review for content
Editors checking checking (peer review)
Not expert in field Often not expert in Expert in field
Real people with “How I Did It Good” Abstract, Lit. Review,
Format/ “issues” on topic Hypothesis,
PLUS two “expert” Methodology,
Structure views Findings, Sources
Popular, Trade & Scholarly
Popular Trade Scholarly

Sources Often people Mix of people & texts LOTS of sources (texts)
Texts not quoted or Texts not fully cited Complete citations
Audience/ “Anyone” can Written for specialists, Written for specialists
Language understand (8th grade but practical not Lots of jargon
reading level) – theoretical
“General audience”

Purpose Inform the general Help peers “Advance scholarship

public Make $ on pub. /understanding”
Make $ on pub.

Frequency Frequently – maybe Monthly 2-4 times a year

(if periodical) even weekly

Length Often short Often short Usually long

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