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Interior Design Program Guide

General purpose guide collecting information and library resources for interior design.

Types of Information Sources

image of different source typesInformation is written for different purposes.

  • to instruct, inform, or educate
  • to persuade or convince
  • to amuse or entertain

Information is written for different audiences.

  • scholarly - scientists and medical experts, professors, instructors, and academics
  • professional - medical, legal, technology workers
  • general - the community

Information is presented in different formats.

  • print - books, articles, magazines, newspapers, reports, field notes
  • electronic and digital - books, articles, magazines, newspapers, websites
  • audio - interviews, music, podcasts
  • visual - video, maps, charts, images
  • physical - artifacts, bones, or other materials

Always consider the type of information you need and what you need it for. Choose information appropriately for your purpose, audience, and preferred format.

Most of the resources collected on this guide are intended to inform or educate (their purpose) and are written for scholarly or professional readers (their audience). Use the navigation on the left to learn more about some different source formats you may encounter in your studies. 

Primary, Secondary, Tertiary Sources

We can group information sources into three basic categories: primary, secondary, and tertiary. When we make distinctions between these three categories of sources, we are relating the information itself to the context in which it was created. Noting this relationship between creation and context helps us understand the big picture in which information operates, and prompts us to consider whose voices we are including in our research, and whose voices may be left out.

Types of Sources: Primary, Secondary, Tertiary
  Primary Sources Secondary Sources Tertiary Sources
What are they?  First-hand observations or experiences of an event. They can also be the original sources of information before they have been analyzed, such as statistical data sets. Sources created after an event occurred to offer a review or an analysis of the event; they provide an interpretation of the primary source or data without offering new data. Compilations of information coming from secondary and primary sources; these can be lists or collections, and are generally reference material that can help you find, or direct you to, secondary and primary sources.

Eyewitness reports (interviews, photographs)

Speeches, diaries, memoirs

Empirical research

Original documents, historical newspaper articles

Literary works (novels, plays, poems), artworks


Biographies, nonfiction books


Literary criticism and reviews

Periodicals (such as scholarly journals, magazines, or newspapers)


Encyclopedias, dictionaries


Databases, catalogs

Most textbooks


Information reformatted from Introduction to College Research: Types of Sources by Walter D. Butler, Aloha Sargent, and Kelsey Smith. CC-BY. 

Evaluating Sources - You are the filter!

information filterWhen selecting sources, there are two main questions to ask as you decide whether or not it will meet your needs:

  • Is this source relevant to my information need?

  • Is this a trustworthy source?

There are other considerations which can help you answer those (potentially complex) questions, but it's important to keep in mind that your sources should answer your question and be quality sources deserving of your trust.

To evaluate each source:

  1. Take a quick look through your source to understand its contents
  2. Assess if it contains the information you need to answer your question or solve your problem
  3. Do some thinking:
    Consider the source's creator, intended audience, and purpose.
    Go "upstream" and track down the original source of the information.
    Read other sources to verify the facts.
  4. Decide if your source is worth trusting

There are other more detailed strategies you can follow for evaluating sources (some examples include asking the 5 W questions or using a source evaluation checklist), but, unfortunately, there's not always an easy yes or no answer here. Instead you need to make a thoughtful decision using any information you can find about the author, website, publisher, or material. The quality of the answer to your information need depends on this, so don't skip this process when choosing sources!

The sources included on this guide are generally of high quality and good credibility, but it's always important to keep your information filter turned ON. 

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