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Current & Controversial Issues

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.

Reference Sources

Reference Sources include sources of quick, factual information, as well as basic and specialized encyclopedias.

Use these sources to generate topic ideas, become more informed, or obtain background information on a topic. Do not cite these sources in a college level paper unless your instructor requests them.


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

Scholarly, Popular, and Trade Journals

Source: Wilson, Rita.  "Scholarly vs Popular." UTSA Libraries, 19 Nov. 2018,

  Scholarly / Academic Journals (incl. Peer-Reviewed) Popular Trade Publications
Examples American Anthropologist
Journal of Popular Culture
National Geographic
Popular Mechanics
Psychology Today
Public Management
Advertising Age
InfoSecurity Professional
Content Research results/reports
Reviews of research
Book reviews of scholarly works
Current events
General interest
Articles on a certain business or industry
News, trends, promotional materials
Purpose Share original research or scholarship with the academic community Entertainment
Current events
Popular culture
Information about business or industry news, trends or products


General public
Business and industry professionals and practitioners
Authorship Expert or specialist in the field, whose name and credentials are always provided Staff writers
Freelancers (credentials seldom provided)
Staff writers
Business and industry professionals
Review Policy

Peer-reviewed (refeered)
Reviewed and critically evaluated by experts in the field

Staff editor Business and industry professionals
Cites Sources Research thoroughly documented None, may mention other studies without a formal references list None, may mention other studies without a formal references list
Format / Structure Structured articles typically contain: abstract, literature review, methodology, results, discussion, conclusion, and bibliography no specific format no specific format
Special features Tables, graphs, maps
Longer articles
Very few ads
Glossy photos & illustrations
Many ads
Ads geared towards the industry