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Expos 20: Propaganda: Evaluating Sources

Disinformation, Fake News, and Conspiracy Theories

Evaluating Your Sources

In a research paper, depending on your topic and your instructor's requirements, it's appropriate to use a blend of primary sources, peer-reviewed secondary sources, and other secondary sources written by experts or well-informed journalists. Your primary sources may not necessarily be reliable or truthful accounts; they may even be from publications that would not be considered as valid secondary sources, such as popular magazines and websites.

Examples of these sources are on the right. For more detailed definitions, see Basic Research Concepts.

The Harvard Guide to Using Sources has an excellent, concise summary of the basic principles of evaluating sources for research. These include:

  • The author's credentials or authority
  • The purpose of the source
  • The intended audience
  • The quality of the publisher
  • Currency of information
  • Accuracy and objectivity

Types of Sources

What kinds of sources might you use in this research paper?

PRIMARY SOURCES: Examples of disinformation and deceptive propaganda, such as those given at


• News reports, e.g. "Facebook Finds Disinformation Effort" (The Washington Post, 8-22-2018; found on Nexis Uni)

• Peer-reviewed scholarly analyses, e.g. "Russian Information Warfare: Implications for Deterrence Theory," by Media Ajir and Bethany Vailliant

• Non-scholarly articles, such as "Annals of Covert Action: Private Mossad For Hire," by Adam Entous and Ronan Farrow (The New Yorker)