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Political Science Research Guide: News Bias

Provides and introduction to key resources used when looking for research materials in the field of Political Science


Truthiness is  "a quality characterizing a "truth" that a person making an argument or assertion claims to know intuitively "from the gut" or because it "feels right" without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts."   (Stephen Colbert, October 17, 2005)   It is important to know about because of the dialog used by some people in the news who resort to this rhetorical device.

Everyone has intuition, and it is often useful.  But if you assume that it alone will carry the day in a research paper you are wrong as your professor will look for evidence supporting all arguments.  It is also a fallacy to believe that citing a number of news cites from one political spectrum will win your arguement as (1)  it often results in a paper that fails to document the whole picture and (2) Political Science professors know the slant of different news sources and can detect papers that use news sources that only paint one side of a picture. 

In order to understand more about political slants of different news sources it is useful to consult a number of additional tools that can aid you in understanding more about news sources.  These include:

Critical Thinking and the News

Simply watching or reading the news is not enough.  One must also be able to discern accuracy or spin. In order to become a critical consumer of the news you must:

  • Seek understanding and insight through multiple sources or thought and information, not simply those of the mass media.
  • Learn how to identify the viewpoints embedded in news stories.
  • Mentally rewrite (reconstruct) news stories through awarenessof how stories would be told from multiple perspectives.
  • Analyze news constructs in the same way they analyze other representations of reality (as some blend of fact and interpretation).
  • Assess news stories for their clarity, accuracy, relevance, depth, breadth, and significance.
  • Notice contradictions and inconsistencies in the news (often in the same story).
  • Notice the agenda and interests served by a story.
  • Notice the facts covered and the facts ignored.
  • Notice what is represented as fact (that is in dispute).
  • Notice questionable assumptions implicit in stories.
  • Notice what is implied (but not openly stated)
  • Notice what implications are ignored and what are emphasized.
  • Notice which points of view are systematically put into a favorable light and which in an unfavorable light.
  • Mentally correct stories reflecting bias toward the unusual, the dramatic, and the sensational by putting them into perspective or discounting them.
  • Question the social conventions and taboos being used to define issues and problems. 
    Taken from Paul, R. & Elder, L. (2004). The thinker's guide for conscientious citizens on how to detect media bias & propaganda. Retrieved from

Think Tanks

While Think Tanks are not the same as news organizations, they often influence political discussions in the news. So it is important to undertand not just politcal party ideolologies and various news organizations, it is also important to understand the leaning of each Think Tank if you hear them cited in a news story. 


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Carmen Kazakoff-Lane
Carmen Kazakoff -Lane, Scholarly Communications Librarian
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