Research Guide: Civic Engagement Project (POLS 1100)

Helpful Resources

Searching the News

  • Use Keywords:
    • Unlike Google, most search engines work poorly with natural language searches, so this a search for “should Congress create a universal basic income” won’t work very well. Instead, identify the most important ideas in your question and search for those. In this case you could search for “universal basic income”. Then think of other words that express the same idea, such as “guaranteed annual income,” and try searching for those.
  • Combine keywords:
    • Searches for a single keyword or idea usually return very broad results. You can focus your results by combining two or more keywords with the Boolean operator “AND.”
    • For example: universal basic income AND congress
  • Limit your search by date:
    • You will want to find recent news stories for your assignment. Most search engines will allow you to limit your search to a date range. You may need to find an advanced search feature or do the search then limit the results. It will depend on the search engine. Most search engines will also allow you to sort your results by date. This allows you to show the most recent articles at the top of the results.
  • Things to look for in the news article:
    • News articles should answer the five W’s; who, what, when, where, and why. The more background and detail the better.
    • Look for articles with a named author. Avoid those with no given author (anonymous) or credited to a news service (such as Knight-Ridder).
    • Avoid editorials, letters to the editor, reviews, personal interest, and other non-news articles that appear in newspapers and magazines. 

Approved News Sources



Other News Sources

Evaluating News Articles

  • What is the main point of the story? Does the headline and the lead support the main point of the story?
  • What evidence supports the main point of the story? What evidence has been verified? How was it verified? What evidence has not been verified? Is the evidence direct or indirect?
  • What kind of sources are cited in the article? Are they reliable?
  • What recent events are important for your issue?
  • Who does your issue effect? Who has influence over your issue?
  • Who are the important players for your issue?
  • What makes your issue important?

Types of Articles

As you search, you will come across different kinds of articles. Knowing the difference between them will help you find better information. The four most common types of articles are:

  • Newspaper articles are written by staff writers and journalists. There is no subject expert review. These articles are often very short and never have bibliographies.
  • Popular magazine articles are not reviewed by subject experts. They tend to be shorter, contain less jargon, and have many more images and ads.
  • Trade journal and magazine articles are written by subject experts, but are not reviewed by other experts before publication. They may contain jargon and include bibliographies.
  • Scholarly (peer-reviewed) journal articles have been reviewed by subject experts before publication. They contain a lot of jargon and almost always include a bibliography. These are usually your best source of original research. The peer-review process also provides a quality check so you, the reader, can be more confident that the article uses quality data and analytic methods.

Interest Groups and Policy Makers

In your research, you will come across individuals, interest groups, state agencies, and policy makers interested in your issue. You will often want to know more about these parties and their interest in your issue. One of the best ways to do so is to find their website and read what they say about themselves. For example, here is what Doctors Without Borders says about themselves. Here are some tools that will help you find interest groups active in your area:

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