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LSU Explorers

The Information Life Cycle

Information Timeline: How Information Ages

In order to find and effectively use information, you need to first understand how it is produced.  This is where the information timeline comes in - it shows the progression of information about an event or topic.  Understanding this timeline will help you better evaluate what sources you should turn to in order to find the best information.  

Information Timeline over Blue Arrow. Coming down from blue arrow are orange arrows that point to an event in the information timeline. Orange arrow one point to Day Of when social media, internet, and T.V. produce information after an event has occurred. Orange Arrow Two points to Week Of when newspapers produce information after an event has occurred. Orange Arrow 3 points to Week After when popular magazines produce information about an event that has occurred.  Orange Arrow four points to Months After when scholarly journals produce information on an event that has occurred.  And Orange Arrow five is point to year or years after when books, government reports, and reference material is produced on an event that has occurred.

Day Of: Social Media, Internet, TV

  • Breaking information
  • Can be inaccurate, incomplete, biased, and highly emotional

Week Of and Week(s) After: Newspapers 

  • More detailed and factual reporting
  • Quotes from experts, statistics, and/or photographs
  • Written by journalists for general audience (not scholarly)
  • Opinion pieces begin to appear 

Week(s) After: Popular Magazines

  • More detailed reporting including interviews, opinions, and analysis
  • Authors are diverse: professional journalists, commentators, scholars, or experts in the field
  • Factual information BUT can have bias reflecting the publication

Months After: Scholarly Journals

  • Detailed analysis backed by evidence-based research
  • Peer-reviewed which helps ensure accuracy and quality
  • Detailed bibliographies
  • Written by experts and scholars in the field
  • Written for a specific audience (scholars) - can be difficult to understand because of discipline-specific language or jargon

A Year After: Books

  • In-depth coverage often providing comprehensive overviews of topic
  • Detailed bibliographies
  • May have bias as authors' credentials and authority can vary 
  • Can be scholarly (detailed analysis) or popular (general discussion)

Years After: Reference Books

  • Factual information written with little emotion 
  • Authors are scholars and/or experts
  • Broad coverage of a topic 
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