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Information Sources: Information Cycle

This guide will assist you in choosing the best sources for your information needs.

You've Been Assigned to Write a Research Paper

You have been assigned a research paper. Where do you begin your search for information? When is a book the best source of information? When is a newspaper or academic journal article the best option? This guide will help you determine the best information source(s) for your needs.

What is the Information Cycle?

The information cycle is the progression of media coverage of a newsworthy event. Understanding the information cycle can help you determine what kind of information you are likely to find about your topic. The infographic below illustrates the Information Cycle.

The Information Timeline

East Carolina University (ECU) Joiner Library. (2014, October 23). The information timeline [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/eHJqaN3QrBk

Types of Information

Knowing what type of information you need will help you decide which sources to use. There are four types of information:

Factual

Factual information is information that solely deals with facts.  It is short and non-explanatory. The best place to find factual information is in reference books such as encyclopedias and almanacs.  You can also find it in governmental statistics (Statistics Canada).

Example: Canada is comprised of 10 provinces and 3 territories.

Analytical  

Analytical information is the interpretation of factual information.  What does the factual information mean?  What does it imply?  This is the type of information that researchers generate in their studies.  Analytical information is mostly found in books and journals.

Example: Based on crash statistics, the Province of Nova Scotia designated the road as dangerous.

Subjective

Subjective information is information from only one point of view.  Opinions are subjective.  You can find subjective information almost anywhere factual information isn't.  It is in books, journals, websites and book reviews.

Example: Going to that movie is a waste of time! 

Objective

Objective information is information that is understood from multiple viewpoints and presents all sides of an argument.  Reference books are a good place to find objective information.  Newspapers that have balanced and fair reporting are also objective.  Opposing Viewpoints and Facts on File are both great objective databases.

Example: While many people don't like winter, some look forward to the season so they can ski and play hockey.

(Dean B. Ellis Library, 2017)