The equilateral triangle paradigm: a mathematical interpretation of the theory of tertiary sources on the World Wide Web.

Author:Alimohammadi, Dariush


Among the pure sciences, mathematics has had the most important impact on the rest of human knowledge, because it has provided a powerful basis for human reasoning. Mathematics is building block for all disciplines. Information Science (IS), as an emerging discipline, is included in this principle. Some mathematical formulae have been frequently used in IS, ranging from theoretical discussions in information theory to applied investigations in information retrieval (Goldfarb, 1997; Kantor, 1983; Kantor, 1984; Ota, 2005; Shibata, 1995).

This paper uses figures and formulae to make a mathematical interpretation of the theory of tertiary sources on the World Wide Web. The theory was developed in a recently published guest commentary (Alimohammadi, 2005). It takes a new approach to categorizing information resources. Different and even incoherent opinions have been provided about primary, secondary and tertiary sources (Boeninger and Smith, 2003; Chua, 2003; CQU Library, 2002; Hageman, 2002; Harris, 2005; Hooper, 2005; Instructional Web Pages Committee, 2005; Laverty, 1998; Macvean, 2005; Net Navigator, 2005; Saylor and Hooper, 2005; University of Maryland Libraries, 2004; Wiggins, 1997). These opinions include the librarian's view of information, as well as various analytical perspectives. For example, textbooks are categorized in both primary and secondary sources, while dictionaries are classified in both secondary and tertiary sources. Moreover, they may be also defined as texts which are suitable for historical and interpretative studies.

Tertiary sources are those which provide information itself or referal to other sources. In other words, s/he looks at the collection of available sources as textual or referral. From this perspective, categorization of information resources is in fact a relative conceptualization process. Sometimes, s/he refers to an encyclopedic article as an informative text and at some other times as an intermediate source which refers her/him to additional resources. Other textual and referral sources can be treated the same. According to the proposed perspective, primary sources provide end-users with the first hand and/or raw data/information; and secondary sources refer them to the primary ones. Based on this statement, tertiary sources are also intermediates that introduce secondary sources in an arranged fashion. For example, journal articles and web pages can be treated as primary sources when we extract a piece of information from them; bibliographies and webliographies can be treated as secondary sources when we identify some other sources through them; and bibliography of bibliographies and webliography of webliographies can be referred to as a tertiary source which introduces bibliographies and webliographies. Under this holistic view, quaternary, quinary, senary, septenary, octonary, nonary, and denary sources would be realized some day.

Mathematical Interpretation of the Theory of Tertiary Sources

In this section, some form of logical reasoning is provided. The reasoning is based on two...

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