Characteristics of Information Resources
Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College Library

Characteristics of Information Resources

slo resources.jpg It is often helpful to understand the type of information you are looking for to speed up your research process. Some instructors may set guidelines as to the types of sources you can use for an assignment and you need to be able to identify the various types.

Information is often divided into types:

  1. Factual <> Analytical
  2. Objective <> Subjective
  3. Primary <> Secondary
  4. Scholarly <> Popular

The content of a book, article or web site determines whether a source is factual or analytical, objective or subjective, primary or secondary, popular or scholarly. This learning unit provides information on three types of information.

For a discussion of Scholarly and Popular types of information, see the SKYCTC Library Tutorial: Popular and Scholarly Resources.


Factual and Analytical Information

slo world almanac.jpg Factual information is a statement that can be proved, for example 1 + 1 = 2. It is also information that will always remain the same no matter where you look it up.

Library resources: Use reference sources (print or electronic) such as dictionaries, almanacs, atlases, directories.

Analytical information is an interpretation of factual information. It includes interpretations or analyses of facts, often made by experts.

Library resources: Use books, articles and web pages.


Objective and Subjective Information

slo encyclopedia psychology.jpg Objective information consists of nonjudgemental or balanced reporting that presents all sides of a topic, including basic facts.

Library resources: Use encyclopedias or handbooks. Can be in books, articles or web pages but the source must be carefully evaluated first.

Subjective information means that only one point of view is represented. It expresses opinions or judgments based on individual personal impressions on a topic rather than external facts.

Library resources: Use books published by the Opposing Viewpoints series or access the Opposing Viewpoints database.

Primary and Secondary Information

slo primary document.jpg Primary information represents information in its original form. It has not been editied, interpreted, evaluated or translated in any manner which might result in a change from the original information. Primary sources can present original thinking and observations, such as original research used to write articles reporting on original scientific studies, experiments or observations.


They are created by participants or recorders who experienced the events or conditions being documented. Often these sources are created at the time when the events or conditions are occurring, but primary sources can also include autobiographies, memoirs, and oral histories recorded later.

They reflect the individual viewpoint of a participant or observer. Primary sources enable the researcher to get as close as possible to what actually happened during a historical event or time period.

Primary sources can vary by disciplines and you should consult with your instructor to find out what constitutes as a primary source in your program area or course.

slo books opposing_viewpoints.gif Secondary information is information "removed" in some way from its original form. It represents restatements, interpretations, translations or analyses of information from one or more primary sources. Examples include scholarly or popular books and articles, reference books and textbooks.


Secondary sources can point students to primary sources that may have be used as references in the work. Look at the works cited in the bibliography for a list of primary sources that may have been consulted in writing a book or an article. Students should also carefully evaluate whether the secondary source is objective in its reporting or if the author is expressing a specific opinion or point of view. Use of inaccurate or misleading secondary information can impact the credibility of your assignment.



Characteristics of Information


Made up of facts

Today's date

Winner of a Pulitzer prize

Historical events


Interpretation of facts

Instructor explaining a chapter in your biology text

Journal articles explaining the implications of genocide


Nonjudgmental and balanced reporting presenting all side of a topic.

List of a religion's tenets found in an encyclopedia.


Opinions or personal viewpoints and some facts.

Student evaluations of an instructor

Book, movie or restaurant review

Editorial in a newspaper


Information in its orignal form

Information that has not been published anywhere else.

Individuals accounts of events at which they were present

First report of a scientific study

Original artwork


Removed in some way from its original sources and repackaged.

Friend providing you notes from a class you missed

An article that critiques a novel

Adapted from: List, Carla. Information Research. 2nd ed. Dubuque: Kendall/Hunt Publishing, 2002.


Use your knowledge of the characteristics of information to solve the crossword puzzle.

 Hyperlink to Crossword Activity 


The Successful Research Process

Research is always a multistep process but the time a student researcher puts into it will pay off in the end.

Understanding the different types of information resources that are available will help you focus your research on the type of information you need.

Need help finding types of information resources for your research paper?

Contact the Help Desk at 270-901-1026.

If you require a Certificate of Completion for your instructor, complete the following: