Welcome to, "what is the Information Timeline?" from the Campus Library. So, you have a topic for your paper or assignment that you would like to research. How do you know what types of information will be available on your topic, where different sources can be found, and how to evaluate them? The INFORMATION TIMELINE is a concept that we use to explain the idea that information is created and distributed at different speeds based on type, and that we have different criteria for evaluating these different types of sources.
Let’s look at an example.
Let’s say that an adorable baby elephant is born at the zoo. Perhaps this elephant was born premature, but she beats the odds and pulls through. What’s more, she has a sassy personality, and an adorable name like...Eloise.
Immediately, the zoo’s social media accounts start to post about Eloise, and she’s a hit. Before long, she has hundreds, and then thousands of followers. Within a day or two, local newspapers pick up her story, then national ones. Internet news sources and blogs might also report the story at this point. These sources do not take long to create and distribute, which is why we see and hear them first.
In the weeks and months that follow, magazine editors may use and analyze the news sources already created and write longer, more detailed articles about the topic. Magazine articles generally take longer to create due to their depth of analysis.
By the way, the sources we’ve looked at so far are referred to as popular sources - they’re created for a general audience to inform, describe, or entertain.
Okay, back to the Eloise the elephant. Because Eloise was part of a breeding program and was born prematurely, scientists or scholars might write about her in zoology or veterinary research journals, which are often found in library databases.
This would involve meticulous original research, and could take many months, or even years to be published
Years down the road, the information from the popular sources and the scholarly articles related to Eloise will be analyzed and used to write books and encyclopedia articles.
Keep in mind that most of the types of sources we’ve discussed can be accessed in print or digital format. Remember that *how* you access the information is not as important as who created it and where it fits on the information timeline.
The process that led to these sources’ creation is important to consider as you search for, analyze, evaluate, and cite the sources relevant to your own research. If you have questions about this, just ask a librarian.
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