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GEOG 128: Geography of International Affairs

This a course guide for resources related to Geography 128: Geography of International Affairs.

Analyzing Sources Critically

The purpose of this guide is not to tell you who to believe.

As you assess your sources, particularly your news sources, you will have the ultimate responsibility of deciding which sources are useful and credible.

You can make good decisions by analyzing your sources critically. Not critically as in negatively, but as in applying rigorous thought and assessment to them before deciding if, and how, you use them.

This can be a challenging skill for anyone to learn, and the following principles can help guide you:

When reading a source, start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Ask yourself… who’s the audience for this? Who are they trying to speak to?
  • Are they trying to sell you something (either an idea or a product?)
  • What perspective is the writer writing from? Who is the author?  What are their credentials? What qualifies them to speak on this topic?
  • What factual claims are being made? Can these be independently verified by other sources with no connection to that source, or by others who disagree?

 

Remember: A source having an agenda or bias doesn't automatically mean it is worthless: after all, we all have biases. However, it can skew the information you're getting, and provide less than the full picture. If you're reading a clearly biased source, try to independently verify the factual claims they are making, and don't take their interpretation as fact without exploring other possible interpretations. Additionally, a biased or even inaccurate source may be useful as an example of a particular perspective that someone may have.

Why are some sources considered reputable... and some aren't?

Analyze a Website as a Resource

  • Check the About Us/Contact section: Who made this website, and what is its purpose? Is it a non-proft organization, a government agency, a business?

 

  • Research names of authors: Who are they? What's their field and area of expertise? What do they know about this topic?

 

  • Wikipedia: Obviously, take Wikipedia with a grain of salt, but what does it say about the site is? Sometimes Wikipedia will have important information about a website that the site itself is not as forthcoming with.

 

  • Satirical sites: Check legal or disclaimer sections to see if a website may be satire.

 

  • Check sources: Looking up the studies mentioned in an article, and verify their claims. Follow the hyperlinks that support claims on a page: do they all link elsewhere on the site? Who are they using to support their claims? Do they back their claims up at all?

 

  • Look up quoted words: Who said them? Put them in context.

 

  • Reverse image search: Find out where an image really came from by using Tineye or Google reverse image search