21 How They Fit Together: The Information Cycle

How Sources Work Together

Each type of information source serves a specific purpose (or set of purposes). Even within a particular container, they may exist to do different things. For example, a newspaper is a container that holds newspaper articles. Many of those articles are intended to inform people of what’s going on…local newspapers will often let members of the community know what’s happening locally, statewide, nationally, and even internationally; those articles will often appear in different sections of the newspaper, but their purpose is to describe events that have happened, are happening, or will happen. Newspapers also contain editorials, articles that serve a very different purpose, which is to inform and then persuade readers in some way.  Both types of articles appear in the same container, an issue of the newspaper.

Likewise, different publications of the same type, such as magazines, can serve completely different purposes. For example, some magazines exist to simply provide information on a topic that may be of general interest to its readers, such as music, gardening, or popular science; others, however, are clear in their efforts to inform a slightly more specific set of readers about scholarly and professional research findings in a discipline area. (You’ll read more about this in “Information Sources: Traditional Formats.”)

When you add in the fact that the same type of source can exist in two different mediums, for example, both in print and online, it can be a bit overwhelming to sort it all out.  Understanding a little more about where information comes from can help, though, and all of this becomes a bit more clear when you look at sources in terms of the information life cycle.

Why is the Life Cycle of Information Important?

Information is like water, vital to life and flowing from place to place, making an impression on everyone it touches. It’s alive, dynamic, moving, and changing. Some of it is high quality, and some is not. We know more about our world than we ever have, and yet somehow, we are less informed about certain critical issues. The better you understand how it all connects, the more informed you can be as a consumer of information. Click through the following images to learn more about how this flow of information works.

Find your library’s contact information below, organized alphabetically by institution.

Concept Review Exercise: The Information Cycle




This section, authored by Jamie Holmes, incorporates the following material:

Information Life Cycle” by Jennifer Hulsey Campbell for Tulsa Community College is licensed under a CC-BY 4.0



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The Insiders: Information Literacy for Okies Everywhere by Adam Brennan; Jamie Holmes; Calantha Tillotson; and Sarah Burkhead Whittle is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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