The Information Cycle is the progression of media coverage of a particular newsworthy event. Understanding this cycle will help you know what information is available on your topic and to better evaluate information sources covering that topic at that time.
(For a larger view of this chart, right click and open in a new tab).
What is the distinction between popular and scholarly sources? Below is a chart comparing works with a more scholarly focus and those that are less so. Additionally, there are three main types of publications:
For a detailed chart comparing these three types of publications, visit:
|More Scholarly||More Popular|
|Publishing source: Academic journals, government, some magazines and journals||Publishing source: Trade journals, magazines, newspapers, websites, blogs|
|Author: Expert on the topic, someone who works in or knows that field||Author: Anyone; may be a reporter or someone who feels like writing on the topic|
|Audience: Specialized (often of peers or students), people interested in the topic||Audience: The general public|
|Goal: To inform or present research; answer the "so what?" questions, make connections between variables/issues||Goal: Generally to entertain or persuade, may inform; answers the "who, what, where, and when" questions|
|Content: Research-based||Content: Reporting events, the findings of others, or personal experiences; opinion-based|
|Reviewers/Editors: Generally peer-reviewed or fact-checked by peers or staff editors||Reviewers/Editors: Staff editor may review|
|Format: Standardized (for scholarly articles and formal reports); variable for other publications||Format: Variable: includes websites, blogs, and infographics|
|Citations: Generally includes references, footnotes and/or links to sources||Citations: Usually none, may link to related resources|
|Vocabulary: Complex, generally technical and focused on the field, formal||Vocabulary: Familiar, non-technical; may focus on an emotional appeal|
|Graphics: Used to illustrate a point||Graphics: Used for visual impact|
|Title: May include: report, study, findings||Title: Often general, usually catchy|
|Examples: Annals of Psychology, Mother Jones, National Academies Press||Examples: People, Time, My Blog|
When finding resources, ask yourself the following questions to determine if they are appropriate to use (SCAAN test):
The interactive tutorial "Evaluating your Sources" offers you practice exercises in source evaluation (may not work in Chrome).
Other acronyms include:
Finally, consider your own biases when reviewing your information. If the paper/presentation/article had the opposite position/result, would your opinion of its validity change?
Google can be a powerful research tool that helps you find policy and legislative data, statistics, policy reports, and more. The trick is knowing how to get Google to find the good stuff for you.
Know your domains:
The end of a web address (URL), after the dot, is the domain. For example, www.usc.edu, edu is the domain. You can use domains to filter out your Google results.
Common domains are:
I know that many statistics are available on government sites, so I can have Google search for sites that end in gov.
Google domain filtering:
Add the words "site:.gov" (or org/edu/com/etc.) to the end of your Google search. Use a semicolon to separate domains.
The search below is asking Google to find sources about HIV infections in Los Angeles, and limiting my results to websites that end in .gov or .org -- in other words, I only want results from government or non-profit organizations.
With the advent of Open Access, more research is becoming available to a wider variety of researchers. Unfortunately, unscrupulous publishers are also entering the field. These are often called "predatory publishers". Their goal is to raise money - generally by tricking legitimate researchers into submitting their articles to be published for a nominal fee. However, most of these will accept any article by anyone on any topic and call it "scientific."
Check the journal before submitting: Tricks by predatory publishers:
Always check the journal website before submitting an article.