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Research Process

Get help with any part of the research process.

What makes a news source reliable? How can you be sure you are looking at a news article?

Identifying a Reliable News Source

Evaluate the Article

  • Pay close attention to the words: Does the writer use fair and balanced language, or do they use dramatic and emotionally-loaded words?
  • Look for context: A well-written news article will provide context for the event being covered
  • Consider your needs: A local paper might be more appropriate for local or regional events, but a national or international newspaper might provide context for the larger issue in question
  • See what they say about themselves: The About Us page may or may not disclose the agenda and primary audience of the publication. It's worth it to look, but you should also see what other organizations have to say about it.

Leave the Site

  • Look it up on Wikipedia: Wikipedia encourages authors to cite facts with reliable sources and remain neutral, and closely monitors pages about more popular or controversial topics. Look for the following information:
    • Age of organization/publication: New isn't necessarily bad, but longevity says a lot. Also remember that many highly biased news sites tend to pop up during election years.
    • Audience
    • Reputation: Are they known for in-depth and factual reporting, or do they have a reputation of producing clickbait and sensational news?
    • Criticism
    • Agenda: Different
  • See what others have to say about bias and degree of factual reporting
    • Media Bias Chart: An interactive chart, rankings developed by multiple reviewers with varying perspectives using a detailed methodology​. Check it out below or visit the site.
    • AllSides.org: View media coverage from the left, right, and more centrist publications - and see where it ranks each publication.
    • Media Bias Fact Check: An independent website dedicated to evaluating media. Search for the organization to see where it ranks. 

Newspapers: One Publication, Multiple Purposes

Multiple purposes of a newspaper: news, feature, editorial, review

Image from UC Merced Library Digital Exhibit: Be Aware Elevate Your News Evaluation. Click the image to view it larger and see the full exhibit.

Image text:

A news source does not deliver monolithic content. Different news article types are written for different purposes. For instance, an article may intend to convey facts (e.g. news story) or to give an opinion (e.g. editorial).

News Story: Written in a direct way with no editorial comments

Feature Story: Written to inform or entertain, may include more of the writer's individual style and judgment

Editorial: Presents the opinion of the publisher or editors

Review: A critique of an art form, such as a movie or a book

Bias and Journalistic Quality of Major News Organizations

Spectrum of news sources by partisan bias and journalistic quality

Click the image to view it larger.

Original chart created by Vanessa Otero, 2016. Access an interactive chart. This chart redesigned by Kristofer Kline, 2017, UC Merced Library.