Publication Formats and the Information Cycle

We can also categorize sources by publication format. That’s because of the difference in timing and effort sources in each format require for their production.

Publication formats include newspapers, books, magazines and articles, blogs and podcasts, online videos, conference presentations, and websites.

Publication format gives a clue to how much effort and time were invested in production of a source.

Sources in particular formats simply cannot exist until there has been enough time for people to create them. The result is that the sources that are created toward the end of the information cycle may come to very different conclusions about the event than did those sources created early on.

Sometimes the information presented in the later formats is more valid and reliable that what is in those produced earlier.

A very good example is that conclusions about Columbine and the causes of that tragedy reached by books—which took years to complete after the event—were likely to be very different than the conclusions reached by news coverage created early on. For instance, many early reports concluded that the two teens responsible for the shooting had been shunned by their classmates and that it was the pain of their exclusion that had moved them to take revenge. Consequently, many K-12 schools nationwide took steps to try to ensure that all students felt included in their student bodies. But more time-consuming reportage concluded that the boys were not shunned (one had had a date for prom activities just days before) and that it was mental illness that made them kill their classmates.

Movie: Information Cycle

This video explains what kinds of information sources about an event can exist at any point in time during and after that event.

View Movie | View Text Version

Activity: Information Formats

You probably noticed that there are some information formats after events that the video does not include.

Think of ways you get information about events and list them here. Include where the information comes from (its format) and who is supplying the information. List anything you can think of.

Now compare your list to ours (see bottom of the page) to see if you thought of things we didn’t.

Activity: The Information Cycle

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A Closer Look at Common Formats

Books—Usually a substantial amount of information, published at one time, requiring great effort on the part of the author and a publisher.

Magazines/Journals—Published frequently, contain lots of articles, related to some general or specific professional research interest, edited, and selected.

Newspapers—Usually a daily publication of events of social, political and lifestyle interest.

Web sites—Digital item, consisting of multiple pages produced by someone with technical skills or the ability to pay someone with technical skills.

Articles—A distinct, short, written piece that might contain photos and is generally timely. Timeliness can mean that it’s because it’s something that is of interest to readers at the point of publication or that is something the writer is thinking about or researching at a given point of time.

Tip: Evaluating Articles

Evaluating whether articles are credible enough for your information need is similar to evaluating any other source. There’s more information on evaluating in Evaluating Sources.

Conference Papers—Written form of a paper delivered at a professional or research-related conference. Authors are generally practicing professionals or scholars in the field.

Blogs—A frequently updated website that does not necessarily require extensive technical skills and can be published by virtually anyone for no cost to themselves other than the time they devote to content creation. Usually marked by postings that indicate the date when they were written.

Documentaries—A work, such as a film or television program, presenting political, social, or historical subject matter in a factual and informative manner and often consisting of actual news films or interviews accompanied by narration.

Online Videos—A short video produced by anybody, with a lot of money or a little money, about anything for the world to see. Common sites for these are YouTube and Vimeo.

Podcasts—A short audio or video produced by anybody, with a lot of money or a little money, about anything for the world to see. Common sites for these are YouTube and Vimeo.

Activity: Best Format for the Purpose

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Answer to Activity: Information Formats

The answer to the “Information Formats” Activity above is:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook – friends, media
  • Google+
  • Blogs – all sorts of people, expert and non-expert
  • Breaking news apps on phone and iPad – news sources