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Research Guides

Is your source SMART?

The SMART Check is particularly helpful when evaluating news stories.  Determine if your news source is SMART before believing what is reported.    

Source: Who or what is the source?

  • Where does the story come from?
  • Is it a reputable news outlet?
  • If the source is unclear, be skeptical about the story.  
  • Make sure it's a source you can trust - e.g. a newspaper with good fact checking.

Motive: Why do they say so?  

  • Do they have a special interest or particular point of view that may cause them to slant information to suit their beliefs or causes?
  • Biased sources can be accurate, but you need to check them carefully.
  • Get all sides to a story.  

Authority: Who wrote the story?

  • What are the author's credentials?
  • Is the person reporting the story an eyewitness or is he/she interviewing an eyewitness?  Remember eyewitnesses can be wrong.  
  • Be wary of any source that is repeating hearsay and rumors.
  • Make sure it's a source you can trust - e.g. an expert on the subject, a journalist reporting for a news outlet with a code of ethics, etc.  

Review: Go over the story carefully.  

  • Does it make sense? 
  • Is it logically consistent?  
  • Are there any notable errors in facts or conclusions?  
  • Make a list of questionable facts.  Develop questions about the story.

Two-source Test: Double check everything if possible.

  • Talk to others or tune in to other newscasts to see if they are also reporting the same story.  
  • Research the subject in journal articles and newspapers, by interviewing others, and search online.  
  • Does your two-source test confirm or contradict the story?

 

Is your source scholarly, popular, or trade?

Not sure if an article is scholarly or popular?  Need to verify that a journal is refereed?  Search the  Ulrichsweb periodicals directory for the title of the publication in which the article was published to see if the Document Type is academic/scholarly.

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