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Choosing Your Sources: Information Timeline

Information Cycle

The Information Cycle


What is the Information Cycle? (Accessible View)

The Information Cycle is the progression of media coverage of a particular newsworthy event. Understanding the information cycle will help you better know what information is available on your topic and better evaluate information sources covering that topic. 

After an event, information about that event becomes available in a pattern similar to this: 

THE DAY OF: Television, Social Media, and the Web (ex: CNN, Twitter, blogs)

THE WEEK OF: Newspapers (ex. New York Times, Chicago Tribune)

THE WEEK AFTER: Magazines (ex. Time, National Geographic)

MONTHS AFTER: Academic/Scholarly Journals (ex. The American Political Science Review, Journal of American Medical Association)

A YEAR AFTER & LATER: Books, Government Publications, and Reference Collections (Popular Titles, encyclopedias, government reports)

Information Timeline

The Day of an Event

Television, Social Media, and the Web

  • The who, what, why, and where of the event
  • Quick, not detailed, regularly updated
  • Authors are journalists, bloggers, social media participants
  • Intended for general audiences

The Day After an Event


  • Explanations and timelines of the event begin to appear
  • More factual information, may include statistics, quotes, photographs, and editorial coverage
  • Authors are journalists
  • Intended for general audiences

The Week or Weeks After an Event

Weekly Popular Magazines and News Magazines

  • Long form stories begin to discuss the impact on society, culture, and public policy
  • More detailed analyses, interviews, and various perspectives emerge
  • Authors range from journalists to essayists, and commentary provided by scholars and experts in the field
  • Intended for a general audience or specific nonprofessional groups

Six Months to a Year or More After an Event

Academic, Scholarly Journals

  • Focused, detailed analysis and theoretical, empirical research
  • Peer-reviewed, ensuring high credibility and accuracy
  • Authors include scholars, researchers, and professionals
  • Intended for an audience of scholars, researchers, and university students

A Year to Years After an Event


  • In-depth coverage ranging from scholarly in-depth analysis to popular books
  • Authors range from scholars to professionals to journalists
  • Include reference books which provide factual information, overviews, and summaries

Government Reports

  • Reports from federal, state, and local governments
  • Authors include governmental panels, organizations, and committees
  • Often focused on public policy, legislation, and statistical analysis