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Research 101: Newspapers

Information on the research process.


Newspapers publish frequently--often daily--and are good sources for recent information. They focus on reporting events and relating factual information.

Generally, newspapers use accessible language and target a general audience. Some newspapers may focus on more specific audiences such as people employed in a particular profession or people sharing a common interest. Newspapers may also serve as sources of local information.

Newspapers cover ongoing stories and some reports may later be proved erroneous as more information becomes available. Articles are reviewed by editors before they are published but the pace of publication requires a quick editorial process.

Newspapers offer editorials and opinion pieces and these are usually labeled to distinguish them from news stories.

Feature stories are longer and provide more in-depth coverage of a topic, but usually newspaper reports are short and offer little analysis.

Fee-Based Access

When you subscribe to a newspaper you are gaining access to the product of an established publisher, one that employs a fact-checking and editorial process. When you use a library database to access news sources you will most often find fact-checked and edited sources. This type of access is called fee-based because the library and university pays for access.

Consult the Web Sources page of this guide for more information on the differences between Web and Library Sources.

Free Online News Sites

Be wary of online news sites. Investigate to see who is authoring and sponsoring the site. Consult Using Evaluation Criteria to learn about using Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose as standards for evaluating sources.

The Web site where you first encounter a news story may not be the site posting the story. Click on the story and then investigate it as an information source.

Political Bias

Some news publications are perceived as having a liberal or conservative bias. Some news organizations acknowledge a bias while others do not. Other organizations try to present a variety of viewpoints.

Knowing an organization’s reputation can help you evaluate its information, but it should not be the only factor. Individual articles may differ from a publication’s overall orientation. Look at each article individually and apply evaluative criteria to determine its reliability, credibility, and usefulness for your project. Consult Using Evaluation Criteria to learn about using Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose as standards for information evaluation.

You may choose to use biased information sources in your research. However, you do not want to rely solely on sources with one viewpoint. Compare biased sources with each other and consult more objective sources. Strive for a balance in the sources you use for your research project.

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