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Evaluating Sources: Credibility and Bias

This guide will help you determine which sources are the best for your assignment.

Evaluating Sources with SIFT

SIFT

STOP:

  • Do you know the website and its reputation?
  • Remember your initial task for searching. Are you looking to share an interesting story or is this for more in-depth research?

INVESTIGATE THE SOURCE:

  • Know what you’re reading before you read it.
  • What is the source’s agenda/expertise?

FIND TRUSTED COVERAGE:

  • Look for trusted reporting or analysis of what the source is claiming.
  • Understanding the context and history of a claim will help you better evaluate it

TRACE CLAIMS, QUOTES, AND MEDIA TO THE ORIGINAL CONTEXT

  • Most of the information on the internet has been stripped of context.
  • You’ll have to trace the claim, quote, or media back to the source, so you can see it in its original context.

Evaluating Resources

Scales

"Evaluating sources is an important skill. It's been called an art as well as work—much of which is detective work. You have to decide where to look, what clues to search for, and what to accept. You may be overwhelmed with too much information or too little. The temptation is to accept whatever you find. But don't be tempted. Learning how to evaluate effectively is a skill you need both for your course papers and for your life." -- (Driscoll and Breeze, OWL Purdue, 2013)

News vs. Opinion -- Critically Evaluate News Stories

News informs. Opinion Persuades.
News is based on multiple viewpoints. Opinion is based on singular viewpoints.
News believes the facts speak for
themselves.
Opinion believes informed arguments do.
News is objective and impersonal. Opinion is subjective and personal.
Examples:
Special Reports, Investigative Reports, Polls, Breaking News
Examples:
Editorials, Interviews, Speeches, Comments


The best way to learn critical news literacy is to think like a journalist.  The four D's of thinking like a journalist are:

   Doubt -- have a healthy skepticism that questions everything,
   Detect -- pursue the truth to discover the big picture, 
   Discern -- find fairness, balance, and objectivity,
   Demand -- high ethical standards in your own work and in that of others.

(These guidelines are from Michael Bugeja's news literacy guide Think Like a Journalist.

For more information, please read:

Political and Social Bias

If your assignment requires an overview of a topic from different political or social perspectives, then it will be necessary to identify and recognize the bias represented in specific magazines, newspapers, and websites/blogs. 

Here are two lists to help you:

Tracing Websites

  • DomainTools
    Find out who owns a website domain (current and historical); or conduct a Reverse Whois Lookup to find all the domains ever owned by any specific company or individual. Can be helpful to identify where or who a website comes from.
  • Alexa
    Find website analytics---how popular it is, who views it, who links to it.