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CMST 213 Social Media (Neffenger)

Authority Level

Source Type / Audience / Purpose

Academic Quality

Experts communicating with other experts and/or specialized audiences. May be peer-reviewed or have authors with noted academic or professional credentials; cites sources.

Academic journals

Peer-reviewed articles that present research or criticism from scholars in a relevant academic field of study

Scholarly Talks / Books / Reports

Published by universities, professional or government organizations to present research findings or recommendations—some TED Talks; books from academic presses (publisher will often be a “university press”); reports from scholarly professional organizations.

Specialized Subject Encyclopedias with ‘signed articles’ – overviews written by academic experts in the area of study

Government documents

Statistics, facts, and figures assembled by government agencies and entities; e.g., Bureau of Labor Statistics, IRS, some .gov. sites, Occupational Outlook Handbook, etc.

Trade books, publications, & web sites

Information written for people who work in the industry the source reports on—covering more detail than a “general” publication for that profession-- e.g., Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Architectural Digest, Communication Arts, etc.

General Audiences, Informative

Content written to be read by general audiences typically meant to be informative and provide fact-checked information; often written by reporters and/or overseen by a non-specialist editor.



Specialized magazines, books & web sites (topic-focused)

Consumer-oriented information catering to niche markets-- Car & Driver, Scientific American, National Geographic, Wired,,  lots of .edu & .gov web sites with general information


Specialized Reference Articles with general editors / no author

Encyclopedia or other overview articles written in more detail and content depth than a general dictionary or general encyclopedia article.


General interest magazines, newspapers, books, & web sites

General sources written for a wide public audience, often on a range of topics-- city newspapers, general news websites (BBC, etc), Sports Illustrated, Atlantic, New Yorker, most corporate web sites.


General Audiences:
Biased, Entertainment, Too Shallow, or Unreliable

These sources are either too short or they are primarily meant to entertain and convey opinion without much fact-checking.

Tools that are crowd-sourced fall here, because we don’t always know the biases of the most recent editors / authors.


General encyclopedias, Wikipedia, blogs,,, etc.

Broad, general interest information, almost always written in lay terms for a wide public audience--  Encyclopedia Britannica, Merriam-Webster Dictionary, political-leaning websites (ex: Occupy Democrats, Red State),  Reddit (on its own, unless an “Ask me Anything” of known authority on topic), etc.


Timeline of Information Production

Type of Resource

Information Time Lag

(How long does it take for a real-life event to be included after it happens?)

Amount of Information

How to Find It

TV / Web / Radio News;

Social Media feeds


a few sentences*

TV & Web search engines

Newspapers [print]

1 day

few paragraphs -- 1 or 2 pages

article databases & library newspaper indexes

Popular Magazines [print]

(Time, Economist)

1 week -- month

1 -- 5 pages

article databases & web search engines

Academic Journals

[print & electronic]

6 months or more

2 -- 40+ pages

academic databases

Online Reference

(encyclopedias, reference databases)

10 months -- year*


(*Wikipedia is not included here; see "web" for Wikipedia)

 few paragraphs to 1 -2 pages

(overviews, summaries)

Holman Library website


(printed & ebooks)

about 1 year

over 100 pages

Holman Library website - Online catalog

Print Reference Resources

2 or more years

few paragraphs to 1 -2 pages

(overviews, summaries)

Holman Library catalog

or the reference section at the library

* Note: Web articles that were produced for items under a "news embargo" (e.g. the writer / producer was given early information about a product / event / item and asked to wait to publish it until a set time) may be long and detailed-- in this case, the time to produce the article looks "short" to us but is actually in line with the "Magazines" timeline (a week to a month) -- the writer / producer just worked ahead of the event.