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4.1: The Information Timeline

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    The information timeline is one way for us to think about how different kinds of publications provide different perspectives on a topic based on when they are published, from when information on a topic or event appears in initial broadcasts or web-based reports to far more comprehensive analysis and coverage in peer-reviewed scholarship and books. Understanding the information timeline lets us know when we can expect information sources to appear in publication, and more broadly improves our understanding of the role each type of source plays in our research. Different formats of information, after all, have varying levels of research depth, credibility, and proximity to the event you might be researching.

    Let’s walk through an example. If you are writing a college research paper about the terrorist attacks on 9/11, these are some common information types and when they became available.

    On the day of the attacks, the only information you would find would be from news websites, broadcast media such a CNN, and social media. This breaking news content can provide immediate information on the event, but can also lack context and background information. Coverage may be confused and facts may be misreported.

    The following day stories are published in newspapers. Newspaper articles often provide more in-depth actual information than the television or online news sources. These newspaper articles will begin the task of contextualizing the attacks and will include additional fact-checking. They will also synthesize much of the reporting of the previous day.

    Popular magazine coverage appears one to two weeks later, with articles on the attacks appearing in publications such as Time and Newsweek. Magazines often provide greater context to a story than is found in newspaper or web-based articles, and will develop the background of a story in greater depth. Articles may be authored by national security experts and others with relevant expertise. While the articles will not be extensively sourced at this point, analysis is much more robust than that found in social media or newspapers.

    After about six months, scholarly journals will begin to publish articles on the attacks. These journal articles provide peer-reviewed, discipline-specific research relevant to the attacks. These scholarly articles are written by experts, are formally objective, and likely include original research and analysis. Note that they are also likely to be very narrowly focused. Trade publications may also provide relevant trade and industry-specific information and analysis around this time.

    Finally, books will begin to appear a year so after a story or event. Books are useful for their in-depth research-based information about your topic; the best of them will also include extensive footnotes, background information, context, and analysis.

    4.1: The Information Timeline is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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