WR 122 Erwert: Opposing Viewpoints

Researching Opposing Viewpoints

This assignment invites you to do some deep research.  From the assignment sheet:

"... instead of arguing what you believe, which you are all pretty good at, you’ll research a different opinion. Specifically, you will investigate the reasons a person or a group of people hold some belief that you yourself do not believe is true. "

You are asked to take a respectful look at a position you may find silly, untrue, misguided or even harmful.  How do you research a position which makes no sense to you?  This is especially challenging because social media and search engines like Google are designed to keep us in information silos where our own views are amplified. Learn more about how "filter bubbles" and "echo chambers" create information silos in the box below.

This page provides strategies and resources for researching opposing viewpoints.  Librarians are available to help as well.

Web search tips

One strategy for locating sources from particular perspectives is to identify the particular vocabulary and phrases that groups that hold a viewpoint use. You may need to poke around online to discover what these terms are, but once you find them and use then as search terms, you may be amazed at how much you uncover.  For example: 

  • Opponents to vaccines will have words like this in their articles and websites:  "vaccine freedom", “vaccine choice”, mortality, side effects, adverse effects, Big Pharma  
  • Climate change deniers use these terms:  global warming (or climate change) hysteria, alarmist, myth, hoax, junk science

Librarians can help you uncover these search terms as well. 

Websites the present multiple views on the same issue

For many topics, you can find multiple perspectives on current hot topics at these sites:

  • ProCon.org - a source for information and research on all sides of the controversial issues of the day.
  • Opposing Viewpoints -- a library database of published articles with varied perspectives on the same issue. 

Filter bubbles and echo chambers

Technology has transformed the way individuals receive information, and has vastly improved access to all sorts of information sources.  Unfortunately, access to information has also become monetized in ways which have created information silos.  Watch this famous 9 minute TED Talk by Eli Pariser, who coined the term "filter bubbles. 

Social media thrives through the creation of "echo chambers" which deepen political divides and further isolate us from the differing viewpoints.  This 2-minute video provides a summary of how this works.  

News sources across the political spectrum

Reliable news sources such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal provide two types of articles:  news articles which strive to be objective and fact-based, and editorial articles (also called Op Ed or Opinion) which reflect the political slant of the organization.  Articles in the New York Times opinion section slant to the left; articles in the Wall Street Journal opinion section slant to the right.  Articles in the news sections of both organization strive to be unbiased, although the New York Times reflects its political perspective by including more focus on social justice issues, while the Wall Street Journal publishes more articles about business and economics.

Less reliable news sources blur the line between news and opinion, and receive mixed or poor ratings for the accuracy of their articles.  You can check the political bias and accuracy ratings of media sources on this site: Media Bias Fact Check

The web site All Sides has a search tool that allows you to filter news stories by the political slant of their source.  Search for your topic in the Balanced Search box

Search box on All Sides website

 

 

Scroll down and select the tabs for Left, Center or Right to see news articles from organizations with different political slants.

Image from All SIdes website of tabs for All, Left, Center and Right