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POLS: Political Science

This guide will help you find and evaluate information for political science topics and assignments.

Evaluating Sources for Credibility

Not all sources are the same quality or will be appropriate for your research. You can use the following criteria to determine if a source will be suitable for your needs and assignment.  

Currency - Timeliness of the information. 

When was the information published or posted?  Has the information been revised or updated? Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well? Are links (if any) functional?

Relevance - The importance of the information for your needs.

Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question? Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?  Have you looked at other sources before determining this is one you will use? Would you be comfortable citing this source in your research paper?

Authority - The source of the information.

Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?  What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?  Is the author qualified to write on the topic? Is there contact information, such as a publisher or email address? Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source? 

Accuracy - ‚ÄčThe reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content. 

Where does the information come from?  Is the information supported by evidence?  Has the information been reviewed or refereed?  Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?  Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion? Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?

Purpose - The reason the information exists.

What is the purpose of the information? Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain or persuade? Who is the intended audience? Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear? Is the information fact, opinion or propaganda? Does the point of view appear objective and impartial? Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases? All sources exhibit some bias, simply because it’s impossible for authors to completely avoid the influences of their life experience -- but that bias is different than an intentional, purposeful effort to shape the message. Is it objective or does it show the topic from multiple viewpoints?

Apply these criteria:

  • relative to your topic
  • depending on how you are using the information

Notes on Authority

Look for more information about the author, sponsoring organization, or publisher and their qualifications. Sections labeled About Us, About the Author, Author Affiliations, About This Site, Mission, Site Index, or Site Map may be may help determine a source's authority and purpose.

Notes on Accuracy

The information presented by credible sources can be verified on other reputable websites, newspapers, journals, and magazines.

How do you verify information?

  • Google it. See if you can find any other news organizations or publishers talking about it. Consider it a bad sign if there's nothing else out there.
  • Follow the hyperlinks to the evidence that the original studies used. Does that evidence look to be credible?

Fact or Opinion?

Facts Opinions
statements that can be proven true or false by evidence statements that reflect what the author thinks, feels, or believes based on their interpretation of facts
used to inform or make an argument used to persuade or make an argument
an actual occurrence debatable
objective subjective

Facts and opinions are not opposites of each other. If a fact is proven untrue, it does not turn into an opinion. If an opinion is believed by everyone, it does not become a fact.

You may encounter both facts and opinions in the same source. 

Authors and content creators typically want to either:

  • inform and educate
  • persuade
  • advertise or sell
  • entertain

These intentions often determine whether they use facts or opinions. Recognizing the author's intentions may help you determine whether or not you want to use them as a source.