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JRN 3200: News Reporting and Writing

The Information Cycle

Courtesy of the University of Illinois

The Day of an Event

Television, The Internet, and Radio

The information:

  • Is primarily provided through up-to-the-minute resources like broadcast news, Internet news sites, and news radio programs.
  • Is quick, generally not detailed, and regularly updated.
  • Explains the who, what, when, and where of an event.
  • Can, on occassion, be inaccurate.
  • Is written by authors who are primarily journalists.
  • Is intended for a general audience.

The Day After an Event


The information:

  • Is longer as newspaper articles begin to apply a chronology to an event and explain why the event occurred.
  • Is more factual and provides a deeper investigation into the immediate context of events.
  • Includes quotes from government officials and experts.
  • May include statistics, photographs, and editorial coverage.
  • Can include local perspectives on a story.
  • Is written by authors who are primarily journalists.
  • Is intended for a general audience.

The Week of or Weeks After an Event

Weekly Popular Magazines and News Magazines

The information:

  • Is contained in long form stories. Weekly magazines begin to discuss the impact of an event on society, culture, and public policy.
  • Includes detailed analysis of events, interviews, as well as opinions and analysis.
  • Offers perspectives on an event from particular groups or geared towards specific audiences.
  • While often factual, information can reflect the editorial bias of a publication.
  • Is written by a range of authors, from professional journalists, to essayists, to commentary by scholars or experts in the field.
  • Is intended for a general audience or specific nonprofessional groups.

Six Months to a Year After an Event and On...

Academic Journals

The information:

  • Includes detailed analysis, empirical research reports, and learned commentary related to the event.
  • Is often theoretical, carefully analyzing the impact of the event on society, culture, and public policy.
  • Is peer-reviewed. This editorial process ensures high credibility and accuracy.
  • Often narrow in topic.
  • Written in a highly technical language.
  • Includes detailed bibliographies.
  • Is authored by scholars, researchers, and professionals, often with Ph.D's.
  • Is intended for other scholars, researchers, professionals, and university students in the field.

A Year to Years After an Event and On...


The information:

  • Provides in-depth coverage of an event, often expanding and detailing themes, subjects, and analysis begun in academic research and published in journals.
  • Often places an event into some sort of historical context.
  • Can provide broad overviews of an event.
  • Can range from scholarly in-depth analysis of a topic, to popular books which provide general discussions and are not as well-researched.
  • Might have a bias or slant, but this dependent on the author.
  • Includes bibliographies.
  • Is often written by scholars, specialists, researchers, and professionals, though credentials of authors vary.
  • Can be intended for a broad audience depending on the book, ranging from scholars to a general audience.

Government Reports

The information:

  • Comes from all levels of government from state, federal, and international governments
  • Includes reports compiled by governmental organizations and summaries of government-funded research
  • Is factual, often including statistical analysis
  • Often focuses on an event in relation to public policy and legislation
  • Authored by governmental panels, organizations, and committees
  • Is intended for all audiences.

Reference Material

The information:

  • Is considered established knowledge.
  • Is published years after an event takes place, in encyclopedias, dictionaries, textbooks, and handbooks.
  • Includes factual information, often in the form of overviews and summaries of an event.
  • May include statistics and bibliographies.
  • Often not as detailed as books or journal articles.
  • Authored by scholars and specialists.
  • Often intended for a general audience, but may be of use to researchers, scholars or professionals

    Courtesy of the University of Illinois

Another Consideration: Detecting Primary vs Secondary Sources

Primary vs. Secondary

For some research projects you may be required to use primary sources. How can you identify these?

Primary Sources

A primary source provides direct or firsthand evidence about an event, object, person, or work of art. Primary sources include historical and legal documents, eyewitness accounts, results of experiments, statistical data, pieces of creative writing, audio and video recordings, speeches, and art objects. Interviews, surveys, fieldwork, and Internet communications via email, blogs, listservs, and newsgroups are also primary sources. In the natural and social sciences, primary sources are often empirical studies—research where an experiment was performed or a direct observation was made. The results of empirical studies are typically found in scholarly articles or papers delivered at conferences.

Secondary Sources

Secondary sources describe, discuss, interpret, comment upon, analyze, evaluate, summarize, and process primary sources. Secondary source materials can be articles in newspapers or popular magazines, book or movie reviews, or articles found in scholarly journals that discuss or evaluate someone else's original research.

(source: Ithaca College Library

For a list of more examples, see Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles Libraries' Libguide