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ESL 400 Pelletier: Fallacy assignment

English as a second language

Assessing websites for bias, slant, mission and information

For the fallacy assignment, we will leave the safety and security of library databases for the wild web. You have learned about how to search for scholarly sources in library databases. Now you have the challenge of evaluating popular sources and websites. Here are a few questions to ask about the website you are examining for your assignment:

  • What is the mission or goal of the website? To persuade? To substantiate claims? To inform?
  • Can you detect a bias in the website? Do you consider it liberal? Conservative? Moderate? Radical? If so, what is it about the language or information that leads you to think so?
  • Who wrote the material on the website? A nonprofit organization? A university? A branch of the military? A business or individual?

Examine the publication or website you are reading for bias

Although people disagree with how bias in these publications and news outlets are characterized, this illustration shows how both liberal and conservative viewpoints range from moderate to radical to irresponsible.

Copyright 2018 adfontesmedia Used with permission from Vanessa Otero.

Google searching

How to refine Google searches

You can use symbols or words in your search to make your search results more precise.

  • Google Search usually ignores punctuation that isn’t part of a search operator.

  • Don’t put spaces between the symbol or word and your search term. A search for will work, but site: won’t.

Common search techniques

Search social media: Put @ in front of a word to search social media. For example: @twitter.

Search for a price: Put $ in front of a number. For example: camera $400.

Search hashtags: Put # in front of a word. For example: #throwbackthursday

Exclude words from your search: Put - in front of a word you want to leave out. For example, jaguar speed -car

Search for an exact match: Put a word or phrase inside quotes. For example, "tallest building".

Search for wildcards or unknown words:  Put a * in your word or phrase where you want to leave a placeholder. For example, "largest * in the world".

Search within a range of numbersPut .. between two numbers. For example, camera $50..$100.

Combine searches: Put "OR" between each search query. For example,  marathon OR race.

Search for a specific site: Put "site:" in front of a site or domain. For example, or

Search for related sitesPut "related:" in front of a web address you already know. For example,

Get details about a site: Put "info:" in front of the site address.

See Google’s cached version of a site: Put "cache:" in front of the site address.

From Google, "How to refine web searches."

Who wrote it? : Domain names reveal website authors

Domain name Who uses it
.com business and commercial entities
.edu academic institutions, universities and colleges
.gov U.S. governmental agencies and entities
.org nonprofit organizations
.mil U. S. military

Nonpartisan websites

These organizations seek to offer objective information.

How accurate is what you're reading or hearing? Websites for checking rumors and questionable information

Icon of paper with a check mark

As we've seen, you can read or hear almost anything. Check out information that seems intended to inflame on these websites. This nonpartisan, nonprofit organization is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.


The International Fact-Checking Network: (IFCN) is a forum for fact-checkers worldwide hosted by the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. These organizations fact-check statements by public figures, major institutions and other widely circulated claims of interest to society.”


Media Bias Fact Check: This site describes themselves as “the most comprehensive media bias resource on the internet" and includes 1000+ media sources in their database.

Politifact: “PolitiFact is a fact-checking website that rates the accuracy of claims by elected officials and others who speak up in American politics. PolitiFact is run by editors and reporters from the Tampa Bay Times . . .”

Snopes: “The definitive Internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation.”

Sunlight Foundation: “The Sunlight Foundation is a national, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that uses technology, open data, policy analysis and journalism to make our government and politics more accountable and transparent to all.”