Information Sources – Concept, types, examples, reliability

We explain what sources of information are in an investigation and how they are classified. Also, how to identify reliable sources.

sources of information digital paper research
At present, the sources of information can be physical or digital.

What are the sources of information?

In an investigation, we speak of information sources or documentary sources to refer to the origin of a certain information, that is, the support in which we find information and which we can refer to third parties so that, in turn, they recover it for themselves.

The sources of information can be of a very diverse type and can provide more or less reliable data, which will have a decisive and decisive influence on the results that we are going to obtain. Investigating is obtaining information, and knowing how to investigate is, therefore, knowing how to collect information in the most reliable way possible.

In the contemporary world, information flows and is at hand thanks to the Internet and computerized technologies. However, it is not very organized and not hierarchical, causing much of it to be lost among “junk” or low-value information, which from being repeated so much has lost the necessary context or has been transformed into what it is not.

For this reason, being able to identify reliable and relevant sources is more necessary than ever, as well as information management studies. In addition, information is essential for responsible decision-making, so companies and organizations rely on detailed research with reliable sources to achieve their objectives.

Types of information sources

Information sources can be classified into:

  • Primary. Primary sources are those closest to the event under investigation, that is, with the least amount of intermediation possible. For example, if an automobile accident is investigated, the primary sources would be direct witnesses, who observed the action occur. Instead, if a historical event is investigated, the collection of direct testimonies would be a possible primary source.
  • High schools. The secondary sources, on the other hand, are based on the primary ones and give them some type of treatment, be it synthetic, analytical, interpretive or evaluative, in order to propose new forms of information. For example, if a historical event is investigated, the secondary sources would be those books written about it long after what happened, based on primary or direct sources. If what is being investigated, as in the previous example, is an accident, then a summary of the testimonies of the witnesses, written by the police, constitutes a secondary source.
  • Tertiary. These are those that collect and comment on the primary and / or secondary sources, thus being a mixed reading of testimonies and interpretations, for example. Considering the case of the accident, a tertiary source in this regard would be the complete police file, which contains photos, testimonies, police reports prepared from the latter, etc.

Most research usually combines all three types of sources.

Examples of information sources

primary information sources audiovisual interview
A television interview is an example of an audiovisual information source.

The sources of information or documentation can be found on various media, such as audiovisual recordings, auditory recordings, books, articles, written press and basically any type of support that allows to capture and preserve the information, to recover it later.

On the other hand, sources of information are testimonies, stories, reviews, essays, web pages, reflections, bibliographic lists, indexes, professional, accidental or clandestine recordings, photographs, films and even illustrations. .

Reliable information sources

The reliability of an information source comes from its responsible handling of it. Reliable sources of information are those that:

  • They clearly indicate what their own sources are. To the extent that your sources, at the same time, are reliable sources, the greater will be the accumulated credibility.
  • Applies understandable reasoning or interpretations. That is to say, it exposes its ideas in a clear, transparent, frontal way, without hiding information and without crazy conclusions.
  • Avoid plagiarism and repetition. Responsible information management involves not blindly repeating what others say, or stealing the information that third parties have rescued, but rather seriously and gradually addresses the issue of interest.
  • Handle different perspectives. The choice of sources can reveal a bias in any investigation, so it is always considered responsible to cover as many points of view as possible, even when they are contradictory. A responsible text has nothing to hide.
  • It is legitimized by third parties. To the extent that a source is considered reliable by a large number of serious researchers, the more likely it is to be reliable, as it is very difficult to deceive the judgment of hundreds of research professionals forever.

Special: How reliable is the information on the internet?