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Current & Controversial Issues

Types of Information

The amount and types of information you can find on a current or controversial issue depends on how recently the issue or events have occurred.  For current events, you are more likely to find scholarly and indepth resources if your research into the topic requires background or historical information. Pay attention to the source's date of publication when you are researching a current event topic or a controversial issue that has experienced recent developments.

Reference Sources

Reference Sources include sources of quick factual information and basic and specialized encyclopedias.  While you would not cite these sources in a college level paper (unless a subject/specialized encyclopedia is requested by the instructor), you can use these sources to generate topic ideas, become more informed or obtain background information on your topic.


For very current events and issues, the only information available will come from news sources:

Within Minutes...

  • Social Media (in most cases, not a trustworthy research source)
  • TV/Radio
  • News sites

Within days...

  • TV/Radio
  • News sites
  • Newspapers


Still, for very current events, you will have the following information sources available for your issue:

Within a week...

  • Weekly Magazines

Within a month...

  • Monthly Magazines

You will not yet have available the scholarly analysis due to the currency of the event, unless an expert has been interviewed regarding the issue.

Scholarly Journals and Books

For current and controversial issues written about by experts in a subject area, you will find:

Three months or more later...

  • Scholarly Journals

Over a year later...

  • Books

Information Cycle

Information comes from many different sources.  Understanding how information evolves can help you decide what sources to use for different research needs.  Watch this video for an explanation of how information begins and evolves.  

Created by University Library, Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Scholarly Journals vs. Popular Magazines

Click chart to view larger image.

Source: University of Texas at San Antonio