Sources of Documentary Information

Sources of Documentary Information: A document constitutes embodied thought which is a record of work on paper or other material fit for physical handling, transport across space and preservation through time. It may include manuscripts, handwritten and engraved materials including printed books, periodical, microform, photograph, gramophone records, tape records, etc. The recent advances in science and technology helps originate another kind of document i.e. computer readable forms that includes C.D., DVD, pen drive, hard disk, web resources etc. All documents are the records of human observation and thought and in its creation direct human intervention is necessary. They provide some information to its readers or users. A library as a gateway of knowledge provides access to a variety of such documentary sources of information.

The sources of documentary information can also be termed as an information product. It is generated out of a service to be provided to the user. It is a kind of consolidation and presentation process giving tangibility to information.

1. Classification of Documentary Sources of Information: Different authors classified the documentary sources of information into different categories. Some popular classifications are listed bellow

a) C. W. Hanson Classification: C. W. Hanson (1971) in the article “Introduction to science Information work” published in ASLIB (previously Association of Special Libraries and Information Bureau but now known as Association for Information Management) divides documentary sources of information into two categories i.e. primary and secondary.

i) Primary: The primary documents exist of their own and usually contain original information on the first formulation of any new observation, experiment, ideas, etc. Thus, according to C. W. Hanson, a monograph, an article in periodical, text book, and encyclopaedia are all primary documents. An article in encyclopedia or text book may not contain any new information on the subject but it presents the information in the particular form for the first time. The articles concerned are not a condensation or rewriting in any way of any existing document but has been written specifically for the text book or the encyclopedia.

ii) Secondary: All secondary publications present the contents of primary document in a condensed form or list them in a helpful way so that the existence of a primary document can be known and access to it can be made.

iii) Primary / Secondary Sources of Information: Conference proceedings, theses and dissertations, monographs, etc. have the characteristics of both primary and secondary sources of information. Those of documents representing new facts can be regarded as primary publication and those having the character of reviews can be grouped as secondary publication. As a result of such mixing of primary and secondary sources of information some expert doesn’t consider this division to be much practical utility.

b) Denis Grogan Classification: Denis Grogan, on the basis of level of reorganization, has classified the documents into three categories. They are: primary, secondary and tertiary.

i) Primary Sources:  Primary publications are those in which the author for the first time supplies evidence, describes a discovery, makes or drives a new proposition or brings forward new evidence about previous proposition. It was created at or near the time being studied, often by the people being studied. It is a fundamental, authoritative document related to a subject of inquiry, used in the preparation of a later derivative work. Thus, the primary sources of information are basic sources of new information which are not passed through any filtering mechanism like condensation, interpretation or evaluation and are the original work of the author.

UNESCO (1968) defines a primary publication as “original scientific paper describing new research, techniques or apparatus.” Primary does not mean superior. It refers to the creation by the primary players, and is distinguished from a secondary source, which is a historical work, like a scholarly book or article, built up from primary sources.

Primary sources may include periodicals, patent, standard, report, reprint, trade journal, classic book, letters, diaries, and other personal papers, photographs, interviews and transcripts, government and historical records, newspaper clippings, and other original sources. The significance of primary publications is as follows:

a) A subject becomes a discipline in its own right when independent primary sources begin to be produced in that area. The progress and development of a country directly depend on the primary literature that reports a new discovery.

b) The information published in primary sources are newly generated, recent, current, full and up-to-date for all other investigators working in the same field.

c) When any research or investigation or its any concept is first published in primary sources only it becomes the basic and original sources of communication of information and reports quickly to be used by other users.

d) Publication of primary sources of information avoids doubling and duplication in the research, thus saves time, money and labour to be spent on it. It also acts as a guide to the researcher engaged in the same field by pointing out what has been done? And up to what level? etc.

e) The primary sources of information help in the compilation of secondary and tertiary sources of information. Often primary sources of information may be the only sources of information in existence.

There are certain primary sources of information, which remain unpublished. Very often these may be consulted for historical interest. Such materials include laboratory note book, memoranda, diaries, letters to and from a particular individual, company, etc. The library also tries to procure such type of material if it comes within its scope of area or is relevant to its purpose.

ii) Secondary Sources: A document concerning a particular subject of inquiry which is derived from or based on the study and analysis of the primary source of information is called the secondary source of information. In the secondary source of information the original information is selected, modified and arranged in a suitable format for the purpose of easy location by the user. The secondary sources of information thus provide digested information and also serve as bibliographical key to primary sources of information. Secondary publication includes text book, reference book, review of the literature, etc.

iii) Tertiary Sources: The tertiary sources of information are last to appear and mostly do not contain subject knowledge. It is designed to provide information about information and so acts as a guide to the primary and secondary sources of information. The main function of tertiary sources is to aid the user in using primary and secondary sources of information. The tertiary sources of information are bibliography of bibliographies, guides to libraries, other organizations, indexing and abstracting periodicals, list of accession, list of research in progress, directories, etc.

Eventually there is no rigid line of demarcation between primary, secondary and tertiary sources of information.

c) S. R. Ranganathan Classification: Based on the physical characteristics of documents S. R. Ranganathan classified documentary sources of information into four categories. These also reflect the chronological order of their development. They are:

i) Conventional: Books, periodicals, Map etc.;

ii) Neo Conventional: Standards, specification, patent etc.;

iii) Non Conventional: Audio visual, microcopy etc.;

iv) Meta Document: Direct records unmediated by human mind.

2. Types of Documentary Sources of Information: The documentary sources of information can be of the following types

a) Newspaper: Newspapers are usually published as dailies or weeklies. The type of paper they are printed on, called newsprint is not meant to last. They are usually preserved on microfilm for this reason. Libraries usually keep paper copies of newspapers until the microfilm copies arrive. Nowadays many newspapers are available on the Internet, some for free, and others by subscription.

b) Periodical: Periodicals are issued at intervals and numbered consecutively. They are given volume designations, several issues making up a volume. Periodicals include journals and magazines.

i) Journal: Journal is a scholarly publication devoted to disseminating current information about research and developments in a specific field or subfield of human knowledge. Journal is usually regularly published at interval. Most journal articles are long and include a paragraph at the beginning, called an abstract which summarizes the main points of the article and at the end a bibliography or list of works cited. The writings of the journals are most often peer-reviewed.

ii) Magazine: The magazine usually refers to the non-scholarly publications written for an educated audience and contains popular reading.

c) Reprint: Once an article is published in a journal additional copies are taken out separately and provided to the author. A fixed number is generally supplied free of charge. Additional copies are supplied at a cost; these copies are known as reprints and used for exchange with other scientists working in the same field.

d) House Journal: It is a publication issued by an organization to inform the public of its performance and style of function and also to know the reaction, opinions of its public. Generally house journals are of two types:

i) External House Journals: The external house journal is meant for the external audience of an organization. The external audience of an organization refers to those who do not work under the roof of the organization, but are interested in it.

ii) Internal House Journal: Internal house journals are meant for the employees under the roof of an organization. Broadly speaking, it aims to inform and educate the employees of all levels about the organization’s activities, functions, etc.

e) Newsletter: Newsletter is a publication issued by an organization often simple in format and crisp in style to provide speedy information for a definite audience. Newsletters are always issued regularly and have a short life span. It is a modest publication containing limited pages say four to eight and a few pictures and illustrations. Generally, the organizations that do not go for house journals find a good substitute in newsletters. While some newsletters are intended for the employees, others are meant for the external public.

f) Patents: A patent presents a detailed account of a new manufacturing process or improvement of an existing process, a new product, a new method of testing and control etc. Generally, when some kind of invention is made the manufacturer wants to protect his invention and the patent offices in various countries on the request of the manufacturer generally issue the patent, which provides an exclusive right to the manufacturer on the invention. It takes the form of an official document having the seal of the government attached to it, which confesses an exclusive privilege or right over a period of time to the proceeds of an invention.

g) Standards: Standards are units or measures in terms of weight, size, length, quality, composition, process of production, etc., established by National and International Organizations. Standards are often finalized through testing, research, and study and prescribe the accepted quality or performance value of a product.

h) Research Report: Research reports are published as part of the annual report of an organization or as a separate report published at periodical intervals by individual and agencies that obtain research grants and have to produce them as a condition of such grants. The research reports are generally produced in limited number of copies and the distribution is also restricted and controlled.

i) Trade and Product Bulletin / Journal: Trade journals contain primary articles but of the nature of applied research. It contains the particulars of goods manufactured by or sold by a firm. Frequently illustrated and containing prices, it also often contains application oriented description rather than theoretical description. These are published by Research and Development Organizations, Trade Associations etc. The original objectives of all trade journals are product advertisement. The complete description, principles and working of a newly developed and highly sophisticated instrument may for quite time be available only in the manufacturer trade journals. Eg.: International Product Finder. Bombay: Business press.

j) Conference Proceedings: Many conference proceedings present new findings or results of work for the first time or at least months before they are published in scientific journals. Some times, conference proceedings also include questions from participants and answers and clarifications from the authors of the papers. The conference proceedings generally contain the statement of objectives, opening address or presidential address, list of participants or conference’s who’s who, resolutions or recommendations, etc.

k) Thesis and Dissertation: Thesis and dissertation are the results of purely academic pursuit. It reports some original work in a specific field. Among all the primary sources of information thesis and dissertation are probably least used mainly because their existence is not known in many cases and also due to the limited number of copies of the document.

l) Treatise: A treatise provides an exhaustive treatment of a broad subject. It is encyclopaedic in coverage of the subject but different in its treatment. It presents in a systematic and consolidated manner the result of work and research in the field with full reference to the primary sources.

m) Monograph: The scope of a monograph is narrower than that of a treatise. Monograph is on a single topic whereas a treatise is on a broad subject. Research monographs are separately published reports on an original research that is too long, too specialized or otherwise unsuitable for publication in one of the standard journals. Each monograph is self contained which frequently summarizes the particular existing theory or practice along with the author’s original work.

n) Review: A review is actually a narrative account or critical synthesis of the progress of a particular field of study prepared by an expert in the field. It shifts, evaluates and puts each significant contribution into its proper perspective. It indicates interrelationship of ideas, significance and possible areas of application and so on, so that one can easily get an expert view of the subject without having to go through the mass of literature.

o) Text Book: A text book is made of continuous exposition, sentences mount into paragraph, paragraphs into chapter, chapters get woven into a single swelling exposition in the continuous pursuit of a single idea, simple or complex, and text books are read consecutively for inspiration, enjoyment or information. There is a link at each stage. There is an element of continuity. According to Grogan, “a text book is a teaching instrument; its primary aim is not to import information about its subject but to develop understanding of it. It concentrates on demonstrating principles rather than recounting detail”.

p) State of the Art Report: These are types of reviews which do not have all embracing scope and historical orientation. These present information assembled from various sources and subjects to the operation of analysis, consolidation, extraction and evaluation in a formal presentation representing the most advanced degree of technical achievement in its field at the present time. Some owe their existence to a specific query while others are issued on a regular basis, in many cases once in a year. State of the Art report emphasizes on the recent and up-to-date ideas.

q) Trend Report: Trend report gives an account of the general direction of research in the subject based on a review of the documents on current development.

r) Technical Digests: A digest service is directed to executives, engineers, technical worker, etc. working in industries. It provides up to date technical information. It presents descriptive text of information in a condensed form and on the core ideas in brief and orderly form.