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POL 429: Public Policy Seminar

Research strategies and resources for Dr. Regina Axelrod's POL 429 Public Policy Seminar class.

Evaluating Websites Worksheet

E.S.C.A.P.E from Fake News

Evidence Source Context Audience
Purpose Execution

Do the facts hold up?

Who made this, and can I trust them? What's the big picture? Who is the intended audience? Why was this made? How is this information presented?
Look for information you can verify
  • Names
  • Numbers
  • Places
  • Documents
Trace who has touched the story
  • Authors
  • Publishers
  • Funders
  • Aggregators
  • Social media users
Consider if this is the whole story and weigh other forces surrounding it
  • Current events
  • Cultural Trends
  • Political Goals
  • Financial pressures
Look for attempts to appeal to specific groups
  • Image choices
  • Presentation techniques
  • Language
  • Content
Look for clues to the motivation
  • The publisher's misson
  • Persuasive language or images
  • Moneymaking tactics
  • Stated or unstated agendas
  • Calls to action
Consider how the way it's made affects the impact
  • Style
  • Grammar
  • Tone
  • Image choices
  • Presentation and Layout


More on Source Bias

The Internet and mass media outlets disseminate much information that is biased or disproportionately weighs in favor or against something.  Most often, the purpose of such websites is to persuade you to do something or to accept a particular viewpoint.

It is often difficult to recognize the bias in websites because the information is often presented in an authoritative and convincing manner. The careful use of words, sounds, and images allows one to hint, insinuate, or suggest ideas without directly stating them. As a result, the content creates positive or negative responses supporting the bias.  

An important way to recognize bias is by being able to separate factual information from subjective or biased content (i.e., opinion, slanted reporting).

  • Facts are statements that can be verified through corroboration and research using reliable sources (i.e., scholarly articles, fact-checking sites including, PolitiFact, Media Bias/Fact Check.
  • Opinions are statements that express feelings, attitudes, or beliefs that cannot be verified. They are neither true or false. The following questions may help identify sites that are based upon opinions and bias:

Another important way to recognize bias is by reflecting on the following questions:

  • What is the tone of the writing?
  • Does it use words that reflect persuasion (i.e., take action, donate, vote now)?
  • Does the content elicit an emotional response from you?
  • Does it seem that facts are missing and more information is necessary?

Being cognizant of bias is step one for avoiding it. Step two is to think critically about the information presented and evaluate the content using the E.S.C.A.P.E model.