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ENG 2010: Expository and Argumentative Writing: Evaluating sources

Guidance for research for students in Castleton's Expository and Argumentative Writing course

How to tell if an article is scholarly

What is an academic source?

Professors often ask students to make sure to use "academic" sources for college assignments


In general, this means a source that is...

  • written by an expert with academic credentials (degrees)
  • published by an academic publisher
  • includes references to sources consulted, including a bibliography and in-text citations or footnotes or endnotes


Media bias chart from

The AllSides Media Bias Chart identifies political leanings of online news outlets.

More on media bias charts

More on evaluating news sources

2-axis media bias chart

The Media Bias Chart from Ad Fontes Media shows the complex media landscape in the U.S. in two dimensions: news value and reliability, on the vertical axis, and bias, on the horizontal axis.

About journalism

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from Key Concepts in Journalism Studies, Credo Reference

Classical liberal theory views the press as a defender of public interests and a ‘watchdog’ on the workings of government. The term originated in the eighteenth century, gained ground during the nineteenth and even now generates debate.

It is derived from the notion of ‘estates of the realm’. The traditional three are the Lords Spiritual (clergy that sit in the House of Lords), the Lords Temporal (other peers) and the House of Commons. It's been attributed to several thinkers and writers including Edmund Burke, Richard Carlyle and the nineteenth century Times leader writer Henry Reeve. In October 1855 Reeve wrote in an article in the Edinburgh Review ‘journalism is now truly an estate of the realm; more powerful than any of the other estates’ (in Boyce et al., 1978).

The argument runs that the press plays a central but unofficial role in the constitution because it helps to inform the public of issues, articulates public opinion and therefore can guide and act as a check on government. (O'Malley, 1997). But it can only fulfil that function if it is independent and free from censorship.

Described as arrogant and grandiose by some, and satirised in an 1855 novel The Warden by Anthony Trollope, the notion refuses to lie down and die. As one of the ways of expressing the relationship between journalism and society, it still has ideological resonance. As recently as 2001, the BBC's political editor Andrew Marr wrote in the Independent ‘If people don't know about power and let their attention wander completely then those in power will take liberties.’


Find three news outlets you read or view regularly, or are familiar with.  Draw a square on a piece of paper, and write in the names of the three media outlets on your square approximately where they fall on the "Media Bias Chart."  Like this:

Spectrum of political beliefs in the U.S. chart