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Political Science

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

How to evaluate your sources

Evaluating Online Sources

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.  Consider the following ways in which information is manipulated:

  • 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.

(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).

Fact checking websites

How to spot fake news

How to Spot Fake NewsInternational Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)

Critical thinking is a key skill in media and information literacy, and the mission of libraries is to educate and advocate its importance. Discussions about fake news has led to a new focus on media literacy more broadly, and the role of libraries and other education institutions in providing this. When Oxford Dictionaries announced post-truth was Word of the Year 2016, we as librarians realise action is needed to educate and advocate for critical thinking – a crucial skill when navigating the information society.

IFLA has made this infographic with eight simple steps (based on’s 2016 article How to Spot Fake News) to discover the verifiability of a given news-piece in front of you.

Download, print, translate, and share – at home, at your library, in your local community, and on social media networks. The more we crowdsource our wisdom, the wiser the world becomes.