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Types of Sources - What's the Difference

Learn quick and easy criteria for differentiating between common source types often used for projects and research at the university.

Information Life Cycle

"Information Life Cycle" refers to how information is produced and changes over time. The diagram below depicts the coverage of an event over time. Keep this in mind when searching for sources, as it might impact what types of sources are available on your topic.
This image depicts the information life cycle visually. It is described in the text below.

When a major event occurs (such as an election, speech, tragedy, or breaking news event), the information on that event will evolve:

  • The same day as the event, information will be posted to social media, internet news sources, and television news sources. Initial reports may later be corrected or updated with more nuanced information.
  • In the following days, fact-checked newspaper articles will be released, and pundits and experts may appear on talk shows. Facts will become more clear, and opinions will begin to form.
  • In the next few weeks, magazines and tabloids will publish editorial pieces on the event. These are less likely to be fact-checked, more likely to be opinion or human-interest related stories. Magazines may also publish long-form fact-checked stories, which will cover an event in depth.
  • In the next months, books and scholarly articles will be published. These take longer due to in-depth research, and the publishing process. Scholarly articles will undergo peer-review, which can take up to several months, and books will be reviewed by an editor. Do not expect to find scholarly articles on an event that has just occurred, but you may find scholarly articles on similar events or ideas.
  • In the following years, films (both fictional and documentaries) and encyclopedia articles will be produced. Encyclopedia articles are likely to be overviews or summaries from a retrospective point of view. Films may depict the event from a certain point of view, or attempt to summarize the event.

Watch the video below to follow the cycle!