Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Expos 20: Propaganda: Basic Research Concepts

Disinformation, Fake News, and Conspiracy Theories

Basic Concepts

PRIMARY SOURCE
The raw, unanalyzed material of scholarship (Harvard Guide to Using Sources). Examples: Novels, diaries, correspondence, posters, data, interviews, government documents, cartoons, films, maps, manuscripts.

SECONDARY SOURCE
Analysis or commentary on a primary source.

PEER REVIEW
"A system of intellectual quality control" (Anderson, p. 64) in which articles and books are evaluated anonymously by other experts (the author's "peers") before being accepted for publication. Articles and books that are peer-reviewed (or "refereed") are considered the most authoritative scholarly publications. But not all scholarly publishers use anonymous peer review; some have an editor, or a team of editors, assess the validity and originality of an article or a book.

SCHOLARLY SOURCE
A published source that:

  • Cites its sources in notes and bibliographies
  • Is written by a scholar or researcher in the field (how do you know?)
  • Is written in the technical language of the discipline
  • Is aimed at a readership familiar with the terms and concepts of the field
  • May be published by a scholarly or professional association; by a university press (e.g., Harvard University Press); or by a non-university press that specializes in academic books (Brill, Routledge, others)
  • Is usually peer-reviewed
  • Examples: Journals in JSTOR

 

TRUSTWORTHY POPULAR SOURCE
A published source that:

  • Usually doesn't cite sources formally, but may mention them in passing
  • Is written by an expert in the field or a well-informed journalist or freelance writer
  • Is written in non-technical language
  • Is aimed at a general audience of educated, interested readers
  • Although not peer-reviewed, adheres to standards of accuracy, journalistic ethics, and a clearly-stated editorial policy.
  • Is published by a commercial or nonprofit publisher
  • Examples: The Atlantic, Harper's, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Economist

 

DUBIOUS POPULAR SOURCE
A published source that:

  • Doesn't mention sources, except the names of people being quoted
  • Isn't assigned to a writer based on special knowledge
  • Is written in non-technical language
  • Is written to entertain a general audience and to increase readership
  • May not adhere to standards of accuracy or journalistic ethics
  • Is published by a commercial enterprise
  • Examples: People, National Enquirer, GQ