Flow of Information
A look at linear time and information:
- from the occurrence of an event, era, social movement or discovery, ...
- to the documentation of evidence relating to this event, era, social movement, etc.
- to how the evidence is disseminated
- and how researchers (and term paper writers) can find this documentation
Articles appear in newspapers , and information is disseminated on TV, radio and web pages . Depending on the event or occurrence, this information may be prolific or sparse.
For example: a general news search in Lexis Nexis lists 102 articles on the Exxon Valdez oil spill that appeared March 25 - March 31, 1989, just a few days after the event.
- Audience: General public
- Coverage: Any subject of interest; newsworthy events; local coverage
- Written By: Professional journalists; some articles contributed by specialists
- Timeliness: up-to-date coverage (one-half day to a week)
- Length: 50-2,000 words
- Content: Dependent upon the type of article: analysis, statistics, graphics, photographs, editorial opinion; no bibliography or list of sources
- Slant: Tends to be mainstream/neutral
Articles appear in popular magazines .
Example: General magazine : Church, George J.,The big spill. (Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska) Time v133, n15 (April 10, 1989):38.
Subject-focused magazine : Barinaga, Marcia, Fisheries first to suffer. (Alaska oil spill) Nature v338, n6216 (April 13, 1989):533.
- Audience: General public to knowledgeable layperson
- Coverage: Popular topics; current affairs
- Written By: Professional journalists; not necessarily specialists in the field; poets and writers of fiction, essayists
- Timeliness: Very current coverage (one week to several months)
- Length: 250 - 5,000 words
- Content: Still, a strong emphasis on reporting: who, what, where, when and why; general discussion; editorial opinion; graphics; photographs; advertisements; usually no bibliography or list of sources
- Slant: May reflect the editorial bias / slant of the magazine
Articles appear in scholarly or academic journals . This is also when scholars and researchers may start holding conferences on the topic and eventually, conference papers will be published.
- Alaskan oil spill: legal fallout. Trial v25, n10 (Oct, 1989):26-33.
- Enhanced removal of Exxon Valdez spilled oil from Alaskan gravel by a microbiol surfactant. Bio-Technology , v8, n.3 (1990) 228-230.
Journals and Conference Papers
- Audience: Scholars, specialists, and students
- Coverage: Research results, frequently theoretical in nature
- Written By: Specialists in the field; usually scholars with PhDs
- Timeliness: Current coverage (6 months - 3 years )
- Length: 2,500 - 10,000 words
- Content: Detailed examination; statistical analysis; graphics; bibliography usually included
- Slant: Supposed to present objective/neutral viewpoint; may be difficult to comprehend because of technical language or jargon; often sponsored by professional associations
In time, books treating the subject or incident are published. Depending on the author, publisher and market, some may appear in less than 2 years. And some topics may generate books for decades to come. Also in this time frame published conference proceedings begin to appear.
- The Economics of a Disaster : the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill /1995
- Sea Otter Symposium : proceedings of a symposium to evaluate the response effort on behalf of sea otters after the Exxon Valdez oil spill into Prince William Sound, Anchorage, Alaska, 17-19 April 1990/1991
- Audience: Ranges from the general public to specialists
- Coverage: In-depth coverage of a topic; compilation of scholarly articles on a topic
- Written By: Specialists/scholars
- Currency: varies (2 years plus)
- Length: 150 pages plus
- Content: varies from general discussion to detailed analysis; usually includes extensive bibliography
- Slant: Perspective entirely dependent on author; may be sponsored or published by professional associations
As time goes by (2-10 years) the knowledge and understanding of a topic or event becomes established. It then appears in reference sources, such as encyclopedias, handbooks, statistical compilations, and more.
- When Technology Fails : Significant Technological Disasters, Accidents, and Failures of the Twentieth Century /1994
- Encyclopedia of Environmental Studies /1991
- World Book Encyclopedia/ 1997
- Audience: Ranges from general public to specialists
- Coverage: Factual information; the Big Picture; overviews and summaries
- Written By: Specialists/scholars
- Timeliness: Depends -- articles typically appear in encyclopedias 4-10 years later
- Content: convenient summaries of knowledge to date; may include data, statistics, directories, bibliographies
- Slant: supposed to present objective/neutral viewpoint; may be sponsored or published by professional associations
|Report of Event||Time Frame||Access to Information (How to Find)|
|News Services||Seconds/Minutes||TV News Indexes|
|Newspapers (print)||Day / Days+||Newspaper Indexes|
|Magazines (print)||Week / Weeks||Library Catalog|
|Journals (print and electronic)||6 months +|
|Books||2+ years||Library Catalog|
|Reference Sources||Average 10 years||Library Catalog|
- Save time by looking first for research materials on your topic at the point where it begins to fit into the flow of information.
- Browse article databases by subject to find newspaper, magazine and journal articles on a topic.
- You can check for Internet information throughout the information dispersion process, by using Web 20.
- Remember to ask a librarian for help in finding and using print-only indexes like the Alternative Press Index.
- If you need help on getting a focus for your topic, try How to Narrow or Broaden Your Topic .
Created: April, 2000
Please attribute any usage as follows: Adapted from Sharon Hogan's orignal 1980 Flow of Information conceptual approach to library instruction, by Diane Zwemer, Instructional Services Coordinator College Library, the UCLA Library and used with permission.