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Women's & Gender Studies: EVALUATING SOURCES

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EVALUATING SOURCES RESPONSIBLY

                                                                                                                 

 

In order to be responsible cultural producers of information (as opposed to being cultural consumers), we need to think critically about the resources we are using and citing in our projects. It is no longer enough to just say a resource is peer-reviewed or scholarly. We are now aware of the institutionalized oppressions that exist in the publication and dissemination of information. 

We have a social responsibility to others who might be looking at us for information. Think about things you retweet, repost, etc. You have a responsibility to fact-check those resources before you retweet or repost, which in essence is you giving your stamp of approval that the information is accurate and reliable.

By definition, ACT UP means to act in a way that is different from normal. We know that normal usually means the patriarchy and the systemic oppression of poc and other marginalized groups' contributions to the conversation.

To ACT UP, means to actively engage in dismantling oppressions and acting upwards to create a more socially just system.

  • - author.   Who wrote the resource? Who are they? Background information matters. Google the heck out of them. If  you are looking at a website, is there an “About Us” section of the website? Google the website’s title/domain name/authors to see if any of them have been reported as a source of fake news. Is there any information about the credentials and backgrounds of affiliated writers, editors, publishers, or domain owners (who.is etc.). Is there a “Legal” or “Disclaimer” section?
  • - currency. When was this resource written? When was it published? Does this resource fit into the currency of your topic? Using outdated research to back up a claim is lazy and irresponsible.
  • - truth. How accurate/true is this information? Can you verify any of the claims in other sources? Does the language of the source contain words to evoke an emotional response? Are there typos and spelling mistakes?
  • - unbiased. Is the information presented to sway the audience to a particular point of view? Resources unless otherwise stated should be impartial. Remember, bias is not always a bad thing as long as the source is explicit about their bias and agenda.
  • - privilege.  Check the privilege of the author(s). Why is this research present in the database? Are they the only folks that might write or publish on this topic? Who is missing in this conversation? Critically evaluate the subject terms associated with each resource you found. How are they described? What are the inherent biases?

Click on ACT UP to see a presentation of this evaluation method.

 

It probably doesn't surprise you that there is privilege in publishing. If we think about full-time faculty who do research and publish in peer-reviewed, scholarly articles, we are looking at a majority of white faculty. The same is true for the peer-review process. Most of the reviewers are also white. What this means is nonwhite folks do not have the same privilege to publish their work and therefore never make it into your search results. Consequently you are missing out on a whole section of valuable information.

When we continuously cite only white authors in our research, we are perpetuate this cycle of privilege. One thing we can do is push against this privilege by searching out other places for scholarly research.

 

There are several avenues worth exploring to get at research that is not represented in our databases due to privilege in publishing. Open Access Journals can be a really great resource.  Open Access (OA) Publishing is free and allows access to anyone. This means research is not hidden behind and expensive pay wall. Keep in mind that not every Open Access Journal is on the up and up. There are scams and shoddy research/reviews that get published in some OA journals. But there are ways for you to evaluate those OA journals!

Another avenue is to find scholarly blogs. Oftentimes professors and researchers are talking about their work on blog sites. Just like with any other resource, you will need to evaluate the blog to see if it is credible or not. Here is a website to help you do that.

Lastly, you can incorporate zines into your research. While you might not be able to cite them in your work (ask your professor), you can certainly read zines for background information and for that invaluable first-hand account.  Primary sources (folks writing about a topic that they are directly affected by) gives a voice to your research.

Once you graduate from Simmons, you will lose access to all the library databases. As you move beyond Simmons, here is a site that curates freely available (scholarly included) resources.

Tips for checking news:

  1. When you open up a news article in your browser, open a second, empty tab.  Use that second window to look up claims, author credentials and organizations that you come across in the article.
  2. Fake news spans across all kinds of media - printed and online articles, podcasts, YouTube videos, radio shows, even still images. 
  3. For images, put them into Google images and search. Verify that what you are seeing corresponds to the event in question.
  4.  Check the account history of the source. Two red flags are: the number of posts and how long the account has been active. If it claims to be a well know source(like CNN or CBS) and only has a few posts in its history that is a clue. If it's a well know source and the account has only been active a short time that is another red flag.
  5. Think before you share.

How good are you at spotting fake news? Try this game and see!

A word about Facebook:

A lot of us rely on Facebook newsfeeds to deliver our content. One thing to remember is that Facebook hired the right-wing outlet " The Weekly Standard" to 'fact check' articles. Consider what this might suggest for you and your newsfeed. To read more, click here.

Want to see what confirmation bias looks like in Facebook feeds?

Here are some reliable sites for fact-checking:

Image result for filter bubble

Did you know that you have a filter bubble around you right now? That every time you do a search on Google, it tailors the results based on your previous search history? Did you know that your search results will look different if you use Google on campus as opposed to using it at a cafe in Somerville? It's because Google is making certain assumptions about you based on your IP address. While we all like customized information there is a real danger of being so trapped inside your filter bubble that you never see the other side of a story.  In order to be better informed, we need to know what each side is saying about an issue and not fall for confirmation bias (reading only sources that already fall in line with our current views). 

 

So what can you do? You can actively take control of your media consumption and step outside your filter bubble. 

 

Read both sides of an issue before retweeting, rebloggin, reposting, etc.

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