Web Guide for Political Science


Rules Of Thumb For Finding Good Sources

The Internet is an extraordinary tool for finding information about politics and political issues. A drawback of the abundance of information available is just that—there is almost too much information. Below are some useful sites, though there are many, many others that are just as good. The following is a guideline to help evaluate any site.

  1. Who runs the site?

    Bias occurs in all sources, even the most academic ones. If the site does not have an “about us” or “about this site” available, do not use it in research. If it does, check the credentials: is it a university site? a government site? run by an individual?

    Many sites do not “lie” per se, but knowing what kind of site it is will help you understand what perspective they may be coming from.

    For example: 

    In 2006, A US government official stated that “the capacity for water and electricity in Iraq has increased.” An independent research organization critical of US policy in Iraq states that “fewer Iraqi homes have water and electricity available than before the war.” Both are correct. The US official emphasized the potential to provide water/electricity therefore presenting the information in the best light for the US government; the research group emphasized the actuality of who is receiving electricity/water seeking to stress negative light on US government actions.

    While it is impossible to know the biases of all the sites, knowing who runs the site is an absolutely necessary first step. If the information is in a research-paper format, you can often discern what the writer is arguing by reading the abstract or introductory paragraph and then the conclusion. This will help put the information in the context of the author's view.

    In general, universities/colleges, non-profit policy research groups, academic journals, and government or industry statistical centers are good places to start. Editorials, blogs, and private web-pages are less credible.

    In addition, while sites like “Wikipedia” (a free on-line encyclopedia) are very useful for general information; they are open sites, meaning that facts are not necessarily checked. For research, encyclopedias such as “Encyclopedia Britannica” that are fact-checked and edited are better.

  2. Try to read more than one site.

    If researching an issue, reading multiple sites is a must. Three sites is a minimum, if they all have the same information, that information is probably more accurate than not.

  3. Does the piece/article resource all data/information?

    Usually this involves a footnote that explains where the author found the information used. Sometimes, you must check this source as well to double check that the information is from a legitimate research organization (see guideline one).

  4. Be careful with statistics

    As mentioned in tip one, many web pages do not “lie,” but rather present information in a way that supports the author/institution's particular point of view. For instance, capital punishment articles (both sides!) are notorious for this. One article may read, “crime rate decreased dramatically when state X allowed capital punishment.” An article about the same state may read, “the number of violent crimes dramatically increased when state X allowed capital punishment.” Both can be correct for several reasons. Article one speaks of the crime rate, which is the proportion of crime being committed among the populace; article 2 speaks of actual numbers. So if state x had a large increase of population, the number of crimes could have gone up but not the proportion of crime among the populace. Also, article 1 mentions all crime, article 2 mentions violent crime. Both make the mistake of “correlative” v. “causal.” Neither article can defend whether or not crime increased or decreased because of capital punishment…indeed if social scientist new what caused crime, we wouldn't be arguing about capital punishment!

    It is not possible to be an expert in everything, but it is possible to be aware that manipulation of information does occur; the clearer the article is about the information and how it was derived, the better. The more you work with statistics, the better you will become at recognizing blatant manipulation.

Useful Sites

There are MANY “good” websites. These are just a few to get folks started.

The Whitehouse, Presidency, Executive Branch

Official Whitehouse Site: www.whitehouse.gov

Congress (Senate/House of Representatives)

Official House of Representatives Site: www.house.gov

Official Senate Site: www.senate.gov

Supreme Court and Cases

  American Bar Association's Summary of Supreme Court Cases: http://www.americanbar.org/groups/criminal_justice/resources/casesummaries.html

Official Supreme Court Site: http://www.supremecourtus.gov/

Campaign Financing

Open Secrets (a non-profit tracking campaign spending) Site: http://www.opensecrets.org/

Federal Elections Commission Site: http://www.fec.gov/

Interest Groups/Political Parties

Politics 1 (a non-profit educational group) Site; http://www.politics1.com/parties.htm

California State University , Chico Site: http://www.csuchico.edu/

Political Issues

These are too numerous to list individually. Here are some comprehensive research sources:

Rock Valley College , IL , Comprehensive Politics Science Resource Page http://www.rvc.cc.il.us/faclink/pruckman/PSLinks.htm

Politics 1 (a non-profit educational group) Site; http://www.politics1.com

Public Agenda (A non-partisan issue information group) http://www.publicagenda.org

Political Ideology/Philosophy

List Links to Ideological Groups: http://politics1.com/issues.htm

Keele University 's Links to Ideological/Philosophical Sites: http://www.keele.ac.uk/depts/por/ptbase.htm

Country Statistics/Profiles

CIA's World Factbook: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/

Library of Congress Country Studies http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/

Terrorism/Conflict

No-profit Center for Defense Information: http://www.cdi.org/

Federation of American Scientists Background on Non-governmental Militant Groups http://www.fas.org/irp/world/para/

International Politics/Issues

These are too numerous to list individually. Here are some comprehensive research sources:

Keele University , UK , Political Science Resource Page http://www.psr.keele.ac.uk/

Newspapers

Articles From Around the World Translated to English http://www.worldpress.org/

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) http://www.bbc.co.uk

Christian Scientist Monitor* http://www.csmonitor.com

New York Times http://www.newyorktimes.com

Weekly Magazine Summing US and World News http://www.theweekmagazine.com/

Website gathering articles about America from foreign presses and translating them to English http://www.watchingamerica.com/

*Despite the title, this is not a religious newspaper. While it is funded by The First Church of Christ, Scientist, the goal of the paper is to be a “reliable source” of international news, not a religious paper. For more information see the “about us” section on the web site.

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 Last Modified: 10/8/2014 02:59:09 PM