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Arkansas State University

Understanding Information and Information Sources: Information Cycle

Learn about different types of information and information sources as well as how information flows!


To know what resources are right for your topic, it also helps to understand how information flows in the Information Cycle. This is how long it takes information to show up in different resources.


Information Timeline

Why Does This Matter?

Information takes time to travel. Some resources like the Internet, TV, Radio, and Newspaper get information out quickly. The limitation with these resources is that they usually offer limited information and are prone to errors and bias. If you're looking for academic research, that takes time. Authors have to gather their facts, write their article or book, find a publisher, get it proofread, edit if needed, etc. While the disadvantage of these resources is how long after the fact they take to write, the advantage is that these usually offer more detailed information.

How this affects you:

Scenario 1: Let's say you're doing a paper on an event that happened in the last 10 months. If you understand the information cycle, you should already know that your topic won't be found in a book or a reference book. If you know that, you won't waste time looking for a book that doesn't exist - you'll go straight to the other resources. 

Scenario 2: Let's say you're writing a paper on nursing. Your subject has been around for years, so you know you can use any type of resource. However, this is also a topic that is constantly changing. If you only use books that means you're only using information that is year old or older. If you want to make sure you have the historical as well as the newest research, you will need to use at least both journals and books. 

Scenario 3: Let's say you're working on a history paper and you know that you can use any type of resource. However, your topic is something that used to be popular, but not so much anymore. What does this tell you? This tells you that there might not be that much recent research done on your topic and you might find most of your information in books or older journals.