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The information cycle

Putting it all together

Is one kind of source enough?

Focusing on only one part of the information cycle e.g. messages on Twitter or an article from Newsweek, means that you're only getting one part of the picture in relation to a topic. It is important to keep in mind that information develops and grows through time and eventually you can find sources offering in depth analysis.

Are all types of sources available?

The information cycle may also help you understand that you may be searching for a source that hasn't been created yet. For example, if you are searching for academic sources about the changes in work during the COVID-19 pandemic, you may find out that there are not enough sources to support and develop a thesis. It is too soon for academic sources to have been published and cover this aspect of the pandemic. Mostly, what you will be able to find is journal articles covering the medical aspect of the pandemic.

What strategy to develop?

When you pick an event as a research topic, do not stick on the event itself. Instead, try to think of the possible questions that this topic raises and how these questions relate to social, health, psychological, political, historical etc. aspects. If an event does not seem to have such connections with different aspects of human nature and life or there are not different perspectives about it, then it may not be such an important event to be discussed, researched or analyzed.

What is the right source?

This is hard to say! It depends on what paper you want to write. If you want to write a literature review paper for a psychology course, then journal articles and chapters from books are the best sources. However, if you want to write a paper that provides original research e.g. about the use of language on Twitter, then the collection and analysis of tweet messages along with other studies published in academic journals are the best sources. Visit our Doing Research Guide to learn how to evaluate which information source is suitable for your research.

Does it ever end?

The information cycle may not end for a newsworthy event that it has great consequences for several aspects of our lives and society. So, you may still find articles in magazines, or academic sources about the September 11 attacks adding new perspectives or knowledge about this topic. Additionally, new information sources enter the cycle as technology offers new mediums like Facebook or Twitter and more sources are produced like documentaries, blogs, podcasts, and websites that offer information and can be used in research too.