Sources of Information

Primary information

A primary source of information is one that provides data from an original source document.  This may be as simple as an invoice sent to a business or a cheque received.  It may be more complex, such as a set of sales figures for a range of goods for a tinned food manufacturer for one week, or it may be a set of sales figures over several weeks and several locations.  There are many examples of primary sources in many walks of life, but generally a primary source is defined as being where a piece of information appears for the first time.

Secondary information

A secondary source of information is one that provides information from a source other than the original. Secondary sources are processed primary sources, second-hand versions.  Examples of secondary sources could be an accounts book detailing invoices received, a bank statement that shows details of cheques paid in and out.  Where statistical information is gathered, such as in surveys or polls, the survey data or polling data is the primary source and the conclusions reached from the survey or the results of the poll are secondary sources.

Internal information

All organisations generate a substantial amount of information relating to their operation. This internal information is vital to the successful management of the organisation. The information may be available from a number of sources within the organisation, for example:

  • Marketing and sales information on performance, revenues, markets shares, distribution channels, etc.
  • Production and operational information on assets, quality, standards, etc.
  • Financial information on profits, costs, margins, cash flows, investments, etc.
  • Internal documentation such as order forms, invoices, credit notes, procedural manuals.

External information

An external source of information is concerned with what is happening beyond the boundaries of the organisation. This covers any documentation relating to a subject area produced as a summary or detailed report by an agency external to an organisation. Such information may be obtainable from government agencies or private information providers.  Examples might include:

  • census figures
  • telephone directories
  • judgments on court cases
  • computer users’ yearbook
  • legislation, for example
  • gallup polls the Data Protection Act
  • national opinion polls
  • trade journals 
  • Ordnance Survey maps
  • professional publications
  • financial services agencies such
  • industry standards as Dunn and Bradstreet
  • the Internet




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