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Navigating UWG library resources and research

What Is the Information Cycle?

The information cycle is the progression of media coverage of a newsworthy event. Understanding the information cycle can help you determine what kind of information you are likely to find about your topic.

The infographic below illustrates the Information Cycle. 

The Information Cycle. What is the information cycle? The information cycle is the progression of media coverage of a particular newsworthy event. Understanding the information cycle will help you to 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 the event, information becomes available on television, social media, and the Web through sources like CNN, Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, etc.; the week of the event, information becomes available in newspapers like the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, etc.; the week after the event, information becomes available in popular magazines like Time Magazine, National Geographic, etc.; months after the event, information becomes available in academic/scholarly journals such as The American Political Science Review, Journal of the American Medical Association, etc.; a year after the event (or later), information becomes available in books, government publications, and reference collections such as popular titles, encyclopedias, government reports, etc.

*This image and textual information on this page is used courtesy of the Undergraduate Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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