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Political essays: searching for reliable sources

When students are assigned political essay assignments, writing the essay is not the challenge, finding useful and reliable sources is. In today’s world, there are plenty of blogs and opinion pieces, but the actual facts can be difficult to find. When students are searching for reliable sources, many of the most authentic ones are written in legalese, which can be difficult for students to decipher on their own.

Teach Students how to Recognize a Reliable Source

Students need to be taught how to evaluate their sources so that they know what is a reliable source. Many students cannot tell the difference between a blog and a true news piece, which is why they often have weak sources when they have to write essays that require sources. The failure to determine an opinion piece from a factual piece comes from the fact that students do not read enough news. Most students today use the Internet as a place to communicate with their friends, to share pictures, and to spend money. They do not use the Internet as a place to learn about the world.

Show Students Where to Find Reliable Sources

Since students are disinterested in learning about political events, they do not take the time to read articles and notice the differences between blogs and news pieces. While it might not seem like a big deal, students who do not read informative pieces do not know much about current events and they do not build background knowledge that they can use for content-based classes like political science or government. Prior to assigning political essays, teachers should share places that students can look to find appropriate sources. Without teacher help, many students will do a quick Google search and use the first thing they find, whether it is reliable or not.

Find Sources through Appropriate Websites

Even though students might be unaware, there are many ways to find high quality, reliable sources for essays. The major news outlets often have informative pieces that students can use. Another useful source is Wikipedia, especially if students use the sources listed at the bottom of the pages because they are more reliable than what is posted on the site itself. Government websites are some of the most reliable, because they are the closest to first person sources that most students will ever get, unless they live near the seats of government and can personally interview their political representatives.