4.2 The information timeline

Another difference in popular, professional, and scholarly sources lies in when information appears in these types of sources. Information about an event or issue appears in publications according to a predictable pattern known as the information timeline. Familiarity with the information timeline can help you best plan your research topics and where to search for information. For example, it typically takes several months to years for information about an event or issue to appear in scholarly publications. If you choose a topic that is very recent, you may have to rely more heavily on news media, popular magazines, and primary sources (such as interviews you conduct) for your research.

Table 3. The information timeline and typical sources.


Day of event

Days later

Weeks later

Months later

Year(s) later


Television, radio, web

Newspapers, TV, radio, web

Popular and mass market magazines

Professional and scholarly journals

Scholarly journals, books, conference proceedings

Reference sources such as encyclopedias

Type of information

General: who, what, where (usually not why)

Varies, some articles include analysis, statistics, photographs, editorials, opinions

Still in reporting stage, general, editorial, opinions, statistics, photographs

Usually no bibliography at this stage

Research results, detailed and theoretical discussion

Bibliography available at this stage

In-depth coverage of a topic, edited compilations of scholarly articles relating to a topic

General overview giving factual information

Bibliography available

Locating tools

Web search tools, social networks

Web search tools, newspaper and periodical databases

Web search tools, newspaper and periodical databases

General and subject-specific databases

Library catalog, general and subject-specific databases

Library reference collection

Chapter Attribution Information

The Information Timeline derived by Annemarie Hamlin, Chris Rubio, and Michele DeSilva, Central Oregon Community College, from Information Timeline by Virginia Tech Libraries, CC: BY-NC-SA 4.0


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Technical Writing Copyright © 2017 by Allison Gross, Annemarie Hamlin, Billy Merck, Chris Rubio, Jodi Naas, Megan Savage, and Michele DeSilva is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book