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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

ESL Undergraduate Student Guide

A guide to support international students in ESL 112 and 115 and beyond.

Select The Best Information Source

Use this graphic to select the best type of information source for your needs. 

Select the Best Information Source (Accessible View)

Information is available via a wide variety of sources. Use the guidelines below to determine if a particular source is likely to meet your information needs.
Source Best for Intended Audience Watch for/Consider
Newspapers

Newspapers are best for:

  • Daily local, national, and international news, events, and editorial coverage
  • Statistics and photojournalism
  • Record of events and quotes from experts, officials, and witnesses
Newspapers are intended for a general audience

When using newspapers, you should watch for and consider that:

  • Authors are usually not experts
  • If a story is breaking, corrections to the initial report are likely
  • The publication may have editorial bias
Popular magazines

Magazines are best for:

  • Current information
  • Short, easy to understand articles (including analysis, interviews, opinions, etc.)
  • Photographs and illustrations
Magazines are intended for general audiences, or those with a specific, recreational interest (e.g. sports, fashion, sciences, etc.)

When using magazines, you should watch for and consider that:

  • Authors are usually not experts
  • Sources are not always cited
  • The publication may have editorial bias
Professional/Trade Publications

Professional or Trade Publications are best for:

  • Current information
  • Specialized articles related to a particular discipline or profession (including context and analysis)
Professional or Trade publications are intended for professional organizations or professionals and scholars with similar interests

When using professional or trade publications, you should watch for and consider that:

  • Articles vary between short and easy to lengthy and highly specific
  • Sources are not always cited
  • Has characteristics in common with both popular magazines and scholarly journals
Scholarly/Academic Journals

Scholarly/Academic journals are best for:

  • In-depth research on a topic
  • Focused, peer-reviewed articles written by experts
  • Include data, statistics, charts, and graphs
  • Include bibliographies of other sources
Scholarly/Academic journals are intended for scholars, researchers, professionals, and university students in a particular field

When using scholarly/academic journals, you should watch for and consider that:

  • Terminology and/or data may be difficult for novices to understand
Books

Books are best for:

  • Comprehensive overview of a topic
  • Include background and historical context
  • Include bibliographies of other sources
Books are intended for a variety of audiences, from general audiences through scholars. 

When using books, you should watch for and consider that:

  • Can include dated information
  • Bias (dependent on author, publisher, etc.)
Websites

Websites are best for:

  • News
  • Government information
  • Company information
  • Alternate points of view
Websites are intended for a general audience

When using websites, you should watch for and consider that:

  • Credibility and accuracy cannot always be assured
  • Bias (dependent on author, publisher, etc.)
  • Sources are not always cited

Understand the Information Cycle: VIDEO

Understanding the information cycle can be particularly important when you are searching for information about recent topics. Watch the video below to learn more.

If the video is not opening, this may be a browser issue associated with Flash. Try viewing in Firefox. 

You can see the infographic and follow the instructions below.

Information Cycle Guide: INFOGRAPHIC

Information Cycle Guide (Accessible View)

What is the Information Cycle?

The Information Cycle is the progression of media coverage of a particular newsworthy event. Understanding the information cycle will help you better know what information is available on your topic and better evaluate information sources covering that topic. 

After an event, information about that event becomes available in a pattern similar to this: 

THE DAY OF: Television, Social Media, and the Web (ex: CNN, Twitter, blogs)

THE WEEK OF: Newspapers (ex. New York Times, Chicago Tribune)

THE WEEK AFTER: Magazines (ex. Time, National Geographic)

MONTHS AFTER: Academic/Scholarly Journals (ex. The American Political Science Review, Journal of American Medical Association)

A YEAR AFTER & LATER: Books, Government Publications, and Reference Collections (Popular Titles, encyclopedias, government reports)