40 Publication Formats and the Information Lifecycle

Teaching & Learning, University Libraries and Christina Frasier

Learning Objectives

  • Differentiate between print and digital sources.
  • Differentiate between types of sources
  • Analyze a source’s lifecycle


We can also categorize sources by publication format. That’s because of the difference in time and effort sources in each format require for their production.

Sources in particular formats simply cannot exist until there has been enough time for people to create them. The result is that sources created toward the end of the information lifecycle may come to very different conclusions about the event than did those sources created early on. For example, breaking news stories sometimes must be retracted as the story develops or new information comes to light. Sometimes, these articles are produced hastily by newsrooms. However, journal articles and books, by nature of their complexity, take longer to produce and thus draw different conclusions from a newspaper article about the same subject. In fact, sometimes information presented in the later formats is more valid and reliable that what is in those produced earlier.

Generally, the information lifecycle looks like this:

  • Event occurs– a newsworthy event occurs and begins the cycle
  • Same day–reports about the event pop up on online media outlets, radio, social media, and newspapers. “Hot takes” are everywhere.
  • Weeks–popular longer-form reporting is published in sources such as magazines; these articles will have more information and will be fact-checked if the source is credible
  • Months–Articles about the even begin to be published in academic journals; documentaries might also take some months to produce
  • One year–After about a year, books will be published about the event
  • Years–The event becomes part of reference works
  • Decades–Sometimes, older news stories become timely again because of new information or because of the event’s anniversary.

At any time in the information life cycle, new information might cause the cycle to begin again at any point.

Adapted from Choosing & Using Sources: A Guide to Academic Research, Teaching & Learning University Libraries, CC BY 4.0 


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Publication Formats and the Information Lifecycle Copyright © by Teaching & Learning, University Libraries and Christina Frasier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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