Skip to Main Content

English 102: College Writing and Research

Library help and tips for English 102

What is the Information Cycle?

The Information Cycle addresses how information changes over time.

The goal is to find a diversity of source types with various rhetors, audiences, and purposes -- a variety of sources will present different perspectives and information. 

Typically, you have selected a starting point or an exigence. From there, you are trying to find information resources (news, journal articles, books, podcasts, interviews, social media, blogs, etc.) that relate initial information (immediate, hours) and information with more context and nuance (days, weeks) and eventually information that contains more analysis, data, and big-picture evaluation (months, years, decades). 

To find materials to complete Information Cycle projects - see the "Where to Search" page. 

A Visual Representation of the Information Cycle

                                info cycle spiral - dots with different labels of the cycle

Image from UWM's "Panther Guide to Writing - Active Instruction Module "Information Cycle 2.0"

Overview of the Information Cycle


Information: breaking news, initial reactions, early facts (also confusion and misinformation because so little is known)

Purpose: to inform


Information: On-scene reports and interviews; early efforts to establish facts, timeline, people, causes, consequences, responses

Sources: national and local news (Today Show, Nightly News), radio (NPR), news website (Reuters) 

Rhetors: journalists and major news organizations

Audience: general public, viewers and users seek out trusted sources

Purposes: to inform, to establish an early sense of facts, timeline, people, causes, and consequences


Information: Correction of early misinformation; clarification of facts; early development of background information (what is this place? who are these people?); early commentary and preliminary opinion by general experts; debate/different "sides" begin to develop

Sources: independent news organizations (Associated Press, BBC), local and natinal newspapers (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Washington Post), news sites, online magazines, blogs (web versions of established news outlets, left/right leaning outlets) 

Rhetors: journalists, major and minor news organizations

Audience: general public, viewers and users seek out trusted sources, but political biases begin to divide the public into different sources of information 

Purposes: to inform, to confirm, to challenge and correct, to contextualize, to investigate, to editorialize 


Information: In-depth reporting; continuing efforts to get the facts straight; more development of relevant background information; expansion of commentary and opinion of more specialized experts; debates deepen (who is to blame? what is the best response?)

Sources: weekly news magazines (Time, Newsweek, New Yorker); weekly news shows or podcasts 

Rhetors journalists and news organizations, wide range of experts and citizens

Audiences begins to shift from "everyone" to a lot of different, smaller audiences, groups of readers and viewers become a bit narrower and more issue-specific 

Purposes: to inform, to investigate, to debate, to connect and extend, to persuade


Information: Investigative reporting; early analysis; in-depth background research and information; effort to understand the "why" and "how"' more specialized experts are consulted; emergence of a "bigger picture" of event; deepening understanding of larger causes and long-term consequences 

Sources: Monthly news magazines (The Atlantic, The National Review, The Nation); more specialized outlets (National Geographic, Rolling Stone, GQ, PBS)

Rhetors: journals and news organizations, wide range of experts and professionals, researchers

Audiences: many smaller, more issue-driven ones, readers and viewers who want more depth, analysis and informed argument rather than opinion, debaters, and "talking heads"

Purposes: to examine, to complexify, to analyze, to argue


Information: in-depth analysis by variety of highly specialized experts; massive amounts of data; debate moves from immediate event to issues of prevention, solutions, systematic problems; event is put into larger historical, social, political, scientific contexts

Sources: Scholarly books and articles; university presses, highly regarded academic and research institutions, government documents 

Rhetors: academics and other experts in specialized fields of knowledge

Audiences: other academics and specialists who are researching related issues

Purposes: to discover and learn; to examine and understand; to connect to other phenomena, to disseminate knowledge, to spur more research


Information: Analysis continues in books and scholarly sources as new information and data are discovered; narrative of event solidifies as reference sources summarize key points, people, and developments 

Sources: encyclopedias, bibliographies, reference books, textbooks, databases, histories, timelines

Rhetors: academics, specialized researchers, editors

Audiences: general public, other researchers

Purposes: to disseminate, to share


Text from UWM's "Panther Guide to Writing - Active Instruction Module "Information Cycle 2.0"