I'd like you to think about how the last bit of information you read somewhere that you shared with someone... how did you tell them? How long did it take to relay that information? How much research did you do to ensure that what you were saying was accurate and well thought out?
Some types of media (like a tweet or live television broadcast) make it possible to share information very quickly, while others (like a book) take much longer to create due to their editing processes and standards. When you understand the different amounts of time and effort placed into creating a type of information, you can start to understand why your instructors are asking you to find sources from "scholarly articles" for college research.
The Information Cycle is the progression of media coverage of a specific newsworthy event. Understanding the information cycle will help you to better know what information is available on your topic and better evaluate information sources covering that topic. Information is often published following this pattern:
Information can be found on television, social media, and the web. This information is quick and lacks detail, but is initially updated. It covers the who, what, why, when, and where of the event and is intended for a general audience. It is written by bloggers, social media participants, and journalists.
Explanations and timelines of the event begin to appear in professionally published newspapers. Written by journalists and intended for a general audience, it begins to include more factual information and may include statistics, quotes, photographs, and editorial coverage
Long-form stories in popular magazines and news magazines begin to discuss the impact on society, culture, and public policy. These articles are written by a variety of people, including journalists and essayists, and often include commentary provided by scholars and experts in the field being discussed. These articles are aimed at a general audience or specific non-professional groups but include more detailed analysis, interviews, and various perspectives.
Scholars, researchers, and professionals provide focused, detailed analysis and theoretical, empirical research. This information has been reviewed by other scholars, researchers, and professionals to ensure the credibility and accuracy of the results. The information is intended for scholars, researchers, and university students.
In-depth coverage can be found in books, which can range from an in-depth analysis written by scholars to popular books written by journalists. Information also begins to appear in reference books to provide facts, overviews, and summaries of the event. Additionally, government reports begin to be released, which include information written by government panels, organizations, and committees and are focused on public policy, legislation, and statistical analysis.