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Political Science

This guide was developed for students and faculty engaged in political science and international relations research.

Why you need to evaluate your sources

"Don't just teach your children to read ... teach them to question what they read, teach them to question everything."
          --George Carlin, American stand-up comedian, actor, social critic and author (1937-2008)
  • Creating Web sites is easy, cheap (sometimes free), unregulated, and unmonitored.
  • The burden is on the reader to establish authorship, validity, timeliness, and integrity.
  • It’s easier to be taken in than we think.  Read about the attempt in Aliso Viejo to ban water.
  • New ways to manipulate information:
    • Astroturf Web sites & astroturf lobbying; artificial grassroots campaigns.(1)  Read about Faces of Coal and Count on Coal examples of astroturffing.
    • Crowdturfing; ”weaponized crowdsourcing” with large scale paid shills/ringers/plants to spread malicious URLs, rumors and misinformation, manipulate search engines.(2)  Read about the TripAdvisor example.
    • Echo Chamber advocacy: "information, ideas, or beliefs are amplified or reinforced by transmission and repetition inside an "enclosed" system, where different or competing views are censored, disallowed or otherwise underrepresented."(3)  Read the Phillip Morris memo describing this type of advocacy.
    • Fake news: Websites and social media that intentionally post disinformation, hoaxes, propaganda.  Read Nieman Reports, Election '16: Lessons for Journalism for an ongoing series of practitioner articles and Journalist's Resource, Fake news and the spread of misinformation for a list of peer-reviewed articles.

Caveat lector!  Let the reader beware!


(1) "Public relations' role in manufacturing artificial grass roots coalitions." Public Relations Quarterly 43.220-23. Find Full Text

(2) Caverlee, J., & Lee, K. (2015). Weaponized Crowdsourcing: An Emerging Threat and Potential Countermeasures. In Transparency in Social Media (pp. 51-65). Springer International Publishing.

(3) Wikipedia, Echo Chamber (media).

How to spot fake news

How to Spot Fake News

Fact checking websites

How to evaluate your sources