ISLM-103: Information Sources and Services
Dated: Sept 28, 2018
Source vs Resource
Though the two words source and resource look a bit similar, they are two different words with different meaning.
Source refers to a place or origin from where something is obtained. It can refer to a place, person or thing. The meaning of this word can slightly differ according to different contexts.
A source can refer to a person who provides information, book or document that acts as the primary reference, and the point of origin of a stream of water.
Resource means something that can be used to function effectively. A resource can refer to money, materials, staff, or other assets.
Oxford Dictionary defines a resource as a stock or supply of money, materials, staff, and other assets that can be drawn on by a person or organization in order to function effectively.
This is the main difference between source and resource.
INFORMATION SOURCES AND INFORMATION RESOURCES
A source is a place or person from which you can obtain something useful or valuable. The sources from where we get information are called information sources and these comprise of documents, humans, institutions as well as mass media like radio and television. Information sources are significant for information organizations and information users. Information sources also provide an in-depth treatment of a topic or aspect of a topic and can also provide a broad overview or historical view of a topic. Information sources are also different from information resources.
An information resource is not the same as a resource and is defined as a resource which can convey or describe (essential) characteristics of a resource in some way. The data and information assets of an organization are referred to as information resources. Information and related resources, such as personnel, equipment, and information technology are also information resources of an organisation. Good research involves using a variety of reliable information resources to find out facts and information about a topic.
There are experts who refer to some information sources as information resources. Examples of such information resources are Encyclopaedias, books, articles and websites.
Encyclopaedias- Encyclopaedias are great for providing a summary or background information, and they are a reliable source/resource of information, written usually by several experts. There are many print and online encyclopaedias.
Books - Books give us a greater amount and more in-depth information on a topic than an encyclopaedia. They are also a reliable source/resource of information, having been written by credible author(s) who have gone through a publishing process.
Articles - Newspaper, magazine, or journal articles can provide up-to-date information on very specific topics and they are generally a reliable source of information.
Websites - We can find information on almost anything on the Internet, so it can be a great resource, especially when looking for hard to find or very recent information. However, the information found on websites may not be correct or reliable.
CHARACTERISTICS OF INFORMATION SOURCES
Information sources have several characteristics, which are:
a) Availability b) Cost c) Currency of information d) Amount of detail, i.e., depth e) Breadth of coverage f) Reliability g) Format h) Medium
Five Criteria for Evaluating Resources: AAOCC
We will use a list of five critical. You might want to remember AAOCC (Authority, Accuracy, Objectivity, Currency, and Coverage), if for no other reason than you might be asked to list these criteria and describe them briefly. The same basic questions should be asked of all information sources: books, journal articles, web pages, blogs, videos, sound recordings and e-books.
Who is the author or creator (who is responsible for the intellectual content). Is there any indication of the author's education, other publications, professional affiliations or experience?
For research on any topic dealing with things and events in the real world, accuracy is, obviously, of highest importance. Data and information must be based on observations, measurements, analyses, interpretations and conclusions. High-quality writing, including good format, grammar, spelling and punctuation, can enhance the appearance of accuracy.
Authors often have their own agendas, when using any information resource, you must decide whether the information is sufficiently objective for your purpose or whether it is biased.
It is important for information found on the web to be up-to-date. However, its appearance on the web is not a guarantee. This may mean checking three dates, the date the page was last updated or posted to the web, the date of publication, and the date of the research or statistics used.
Decide whether the information source adequately covers the topic. Consider how coverage from one source compares with coverage by other sources.
Look for a statement describing the purpose or coverage of the source and consider if the information is in-depth enough for your needs.
Does the information source leave questions unanswered (ask the "five W's and H" to check: who, what, when, where, why and how)?
SELECTING INFORMATION SOURCES
On basis of information needs of users, as already identified, suitable information sources are to be selected. The table below lists the most important types of sources of information for finding what users usually need for their information requirements.
Kind of Information Selecting the Information Sources
Kind of Information Selecting the Information Sources
Biographies Books, periodicals, encyclopedias, websites
Companies People, organizations, Directories
Facts Almanacs, atlases, books, databases, dictionaries, encyclopedias, government documents, handbooks,
manuals, newspapers, websites, yearbooks
Graphics/Image-based Almanacs, atlases, books, databases, websites
Original documents Bibliographies, books, periodical articles, websites
Popular opinion Books, periodical articles, newspapers, websites
Product information Databases, manufacturer and vendor catalogs
Professional commentary Bibliographies, books, periodical articles, websites, yearbooks
Research Bibliographies, books, government documents, periodical articles, statistical abstracts
Statistics/Data Almanacs, atlases, books, databases, statistical abstracts, yearbooks
Strategies for Identifying Information Sources
Many kinds of information are found in more than one type of source. To help determine which type of source is most likely to contain the information a user requires, the following question are required to be asked.
a) How broad or narrow a focus is needed?
Books will also give a broad overview of topic but in considerably greater detail, and may summarize the published information on required topic. Journal articles will give information on very specific aspects of the topic. Often we will need a mixture of encyclopedias, books, and periodical articles to find the desired information.
b) What level of information is needed?
Articles in these publications can also provide us with needed background information that will help us to understand the technical language used in scholarly journal articles.
c) How current does the information need to be?
information can be found in year books, almanacs; and for older information we may look for books, encyclopaedias, annual reviews, etc.
d) Do we need specialized information?
At times we need specialized information such as statistics, maps or diagrams, or addresses for people or the manufacturer of a product. These special kinds of factual information are most often found in atlases, almanacs, yearbooks, directories, catalogs, or government documents. Usually the most current editions of these information sources are found in a library's reference department.
d) Do we need primary, secondary or tertiary information?
Primary sources include personal experiences, eyewitness accounts, product information, and historical documents.
Secondary materials are raw data and primary source materials that have been analyzed and then organized into logical presentations
by someone-usually a researcher.
Tertiary information is commentary or opinions about a given topic, based on and quoting primary and secondary sources.
Information Access Tools
Libraries provide a number of tools to identify specific sources of information. The strategies for locating specific information sources vary depending on the access tool needed to find them. The three broad categories of access tools usually used to find the desired information sources are:
• Library Catalogues
• Printed Indexes and Databases
• Web Indexes and Search Engines
Generally we may need to use more than one access tool because well-balanced information activities usually requires information from different kinds of sources. The table below gives the type(s) of access tools required based on the type of information sources needed.
Information Sources Access Tools
Almanacs Library catalog, web indexes, search engines
Atlases Library catalog, web indexes, search engines
Bibliographies Library catalog, web indexes, search engines
Books or book chapters Library catalog, databases and print indexes, web indexes, search engines
Dictionaries Library catalog, web indexes, search engines
Directories Library catalog, web indexes, search engines
Databases Databases, search engines
Encyclopedias Library catalog, web indexes, search engines
Government documents Library catalog, web indexes, search engines
Handbooks Library catalog, web indexes, search engines
Periodical articles Print indexes, databases, search engines
Manuals Library catalog, web indexes, search engines
Newspaper articles Print indexes, databases, search engines
Statistical abstracts Library catalog, web indexes, search engines
Manufacturer & vendor catalogs Library catalog, web indexes, search engines
Web sites Web indexes, search engines
Yearbooks Library catalog, web indexes, search engines
Evaluating Information Resources
Evaluating information sources is a important part of the research process. Not all information is reliable or true, nor will all information be suitable for your paper or project. Print and Internet sources vary widely in their authority, accuracy, objectivity, currency, and coverage. Users must be able to critically evaluate the appropriateness of all types of information sources prior to relying on the information.
Today, however, many online resources are being added to supplement collections, replace printed (paper) items, or improve access. Although online sources are accessible via the Internet, many originated in paper form and follow the same publication criteria.
Therefore, the quality of print and online information sources is similar and will be considered the same in this discussion. A look at a few characteristics of print and Internet sources will identify major quality distinctions between print and Internet information sources.
Print Sources vs. World Wide Web
• Quality standards of printed materials are controlled through a system of checks and balances imposed by peer review, editors, publishers, and librarians, all of whom manage and control access to printed information. This assures that published materials have been through some form of critical review and evaluation, preventing informal, poorly designed, difficult-to-use and otherwise problematic materials from getting into the hands of users.
• Printed information follows standard formats for logical and effective organization.
• Materials in printed form are stable. Once in print, information remains fixed for all time. New editions and revisions often are published, but these are separate and distinct physical entities that can be placed side by side with the originals.
World Wide Web
• On the web, anyone can, with no supervision or review at all, put up a web page.
• On the Web, there is no systematic monitoring of much of what appears, except, of course, for article published in the online forms of otherwise reputable scholarly journals and books. Biases, hidden agendas, distorted perspectives, commercial promotions, inaccuracies, and so on are not monitored.
• There is no standard format for web sites and documents. Web pages exhibit fewer clues regarding their origins and authoritativeness than print sources. Important information, such as dates, author(s), and references are not always easy to locate. While a reader can easily note this information in a book or periodical article, the web user must often search through several pages, if the information is provided at all.
• Internet sources are also not stable. Web documents can be changed easily. And once changed, the original is gone forever unless a specific effort is made to preserve it. In fact, many Web documents are intentionally designed to change as necessary, and with automatic changes as with manual changes, the original disappears.
• Web resources use hypertext links and need not be organized in any linear fashion. One can easily be led astray and distracted from the topic at hand. But, of course, one can also be led to additional information of value.
• The changing nature of the web and web documents create major problems with the stability of information and with links between different units of information. Dead or broken and links on the Web are common and others just disappear or are not updated.
• For print sources, quality control is sought through critical evaluation during the publication process.
• It is the user's responsibility to evaluate information sources, in print and on the web, that they find during the research process before using it in a paper or presentation.