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POLS 202 Introduction to American Government & Politics: Check the Facts

This guide will help students research the landscape of current political legislation.

Checking the Facts

Politicians are not required by law to tell the truth and government agencies can be influenced by political bias. Be sure to check your facts and figures!

Checking the Stats

Political groups cite the facts and figures that suit them. Check out the basics for yourself.

Evaluate your sources using the following criteria

How do you know if you have a "good source"? 

an image that reads "Evaluate your sources"

Use the criteria below to determine the quality of ALL YOUR SOURCES

(books, articles, videos, audio programs, and especially websites...etc.)


If your source fails to meet a lot of the criteria listed below, look for another, better source.

Authority / Credibility

Determining the author for a source is important in deciding whether information is credible. The author should show some evidence of being knowledgeable, reliable and truthful.

  • Who is the author (person, company, or organization)?
  • Is the author reputable or well-known? (what is their experience, expertise, education, knowledge)?
  • Does the author provide citations as to where they obtained their own information?
  • For websites, do sections like "About Us" or "Who We Are" give you more detailed information about the organization or author?

The source should contain accurate and up-to-date information that can be verified by other sources.

  • Can facts or statistics be verified through another source?
  • Based on your knowledge, does the information seem accurate? Does it match the information found in other sources?
  • Are there spelling or grammatical errors?
  • For websites, do other reliable websites link to this one?
Scope / Relevance

It is important that the source meets the information needs and requirements of your research assignment.

  • Does the source cover your topic comprehensively or does it cover only one aspect?
  • To what extent does the source answer your research question?
  • Is the source considered popular or scholarly?
  • Is the terminology and language used easy to understand?
Currency / Date

Some written works are ageless (e.g., classic literature) while others (e.g., technological news) become outdated quickly. It is important to determine if currency is pertinent to your research.

  • When was the source written and published?
  • Has the information been updated recently?
  • Is currency important to your research?
Objectivity / Bias / Reliability

Every author has an opinion. Recognizing this is instrumental in determining if the information presented is objective or biased. 

  • Why is this information being published?  Who benefits?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Can you determine if the author or organization has a particular political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases?
  • What is the purpose of the information?  To inform, teach, sell, entertain, persuade?
  • For web sources, what is the domain (.edu, .gov, .com, .org, .net)? 
Style / Functionality

Style and functionality may be of lesser concern. However, if the source is not well-organized, its value is diminished.

  • Is the source well-written and organized?
  • To what extent is it professional looking?
  • For websites, can you navigate around easily?
  • For websites, are links broken?