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Information Literacy Guide: Types of Information Sources

In this Section

In this section you will learn about the following types of information sources:

Objectives

After completing this SECTION, you will be able to:

  • know where to find the correct information,
  • understand the difference between information finding tools and information sources,
  • recognise and use different information sources
  • apply the following searching techniques:
    • boolean logic
    • truncation/wildcards
    • phrase searching

Video Tutorial: Types of Information Sources

Video Tutorial: What is a Library Database?

Video Source: RMIT University

Video Tutorial: What is the Internet?

Types of Information Sources

Information can come from virtually anywhere — media, blogs, personal experiences, books, journal and magazine articles, expert opinions, encyclopedias, and web pages — and the type of information you need will change depending on the question you are trying to answer. Look at the following sources of information. Notice the similarities between them.

Source: VirginiaTech Library

Books

 

INFORMATION

USE

EXAMPLES

 

 

 

Books cover virtually any topic, fact or fiction. For research purposes, you will probably be looking for books that synthesize all the information on one topic to support a particular argument or thesis.

Libraries organize and store their book collections on shelves called "stacks."

when looking for lots of information on a topic

to put your topic in context with other important issues

to find historical information

to find summaries of research to support an argument

 

 

Encyclopedias

TYPE

INFORMATION

USE

EXAMPLES

 

 

Encyclopedias are collections of short, factual entries often written by different contributors who are knowledgeable about the topic. 

There are two types of encyclopedias: general and subject. General encyclopedias provide concise overviews on a wide variety of topics. Subject encyclopedias contain in-depth entries focusing on one field of study

when looking for background information on a topic

when trying to find key ideas, important dates or concepts

 

 

Academic Journals

TYPE

INFORMATION

USE

EXAMPLES

 

A journal is a collection of articles usually written by scholars in an academic or professional field.

An editorial board reviews articles to decide whether they should be accepted.

Articles in journals can cover very specific topics or narrow fields of research.

when doing scholarly research

to find out what has been studied on your topic

to find bibliographies that point to other relevant research

 

 

Databases

TYPE

INFORMATION

USE

EXAMPLES

 

A database contains citations of articles in magazines, journals, and newspapers. They may also contain citations to podcasts, blogs, videos, and other media types. Some databases contain abstracts or brief summaries of the articles, while other databases contain complete, full-text articles.

when you want to find articles on your topic in magazines, journals or newspapers

EBSCOhost

 

Sabinet

 

Emerald

 

ScienceDirect

 

Jstor

Magazines

TYPE

INFORMATION

USE

EXAMPLES

 

A magazine is a collection of articles and images about diverse topics of popular interest and current events.

Usually these articles are written by journalists or scholars and are geared toward the average adult.

Magazines may cover very "serious" material, but to find consistent scholarly information, you should use journals.

to find information or opinions about popular culture

to find up-to-date information about current events

to find general articles for people who are not necessarily specialists about the topic

 

Drum

 

You

 

Time

 

National Geographic

Newspapers

TYPE

INFORMATION

USE

EXAMPLES

 

A newspaper is a collection of articles about current events usually published daily. Since there is at least one in every city, it is a great source for local information.

to find current information about international, national and local events

to find editorials, commentaries, expert or popular opinions

Daily Dispatch

 

Sunday Times

 

Mail & Guardian

 

City Press

Library Catalog

TYPE

INFORMATION

USE

EXAMPLES

 

  

A library catalog is an organized and searchable collection of records of every item in a library and can be found on the library home page. The catalog will point you to the location of a particular source, or group of sources, that the library owns on your topic.

to find out what items the library owns on your topic

to find where a specific item is located in the library

 

 

Internet

TYPE

INFORMATION

USE

EXAMPLES

 

 

The Web allows you to access most types of information on the Internet through a browser. One of the main features of the Web is the ability to quickly link to other related information. The Web contains information beyond plain text, including sounds, images, and video.

The important thing to do when using information on the Internet is to know how to evaluate it!

to find current information

to find information about companies

to find information from all levels of government - federal to local

to find both expert and popular opinions

to find information about hobbies and personal interests

 

 

www.ufh.ac.za

 

www.google.co.za

 

www.education.gov.za