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Conspiracy Theories

What is conspiracy theory, why we believe conspiracy theories, examples and sources for conspiracy theory.

Top Databases

"" Use COM Library's databases to get the college level articles you need for your research faster.

Many conspiracy theories involve events that are very current. To find credible sources you may need to use more news articles as scholarly ones may not yet be available. 

Find Your Sources

Your best approach to finding sources really depends on the conspiracy theory that you choose. Some conspiracy theories are classic and have been around for a long time, such as conspiracies involving the assassination of JFK or the moon landing. For those kinds of conspires you'll probably find plenty of resources including books, articles, even scholarly articles. For some more recent conspiracy theories you may only find news articles or possibly just web sites. 

1. Start with OneSearch

OneSearch let's you search almost all of the Library's database all at once so you'll save time and still find the best books, news or scholarly articles and media for your topic. 

2. Next, Try Websites

If you have no luck in OneSearch you probably have a very recent conspiracy theory and will have to rely on websites. Your challenge is finding credible information. If you are relying on websites make sure you use the techniques below to evaluate them.  

Tip: Add Terms Like conspiracy to your search

No matter where you start your search, you can experiment with adding terms like consipoary plus you topic to get more focused results. 

Example
  • moon landing conspiracy
  • moon landing debunked
Terms to Add with your Topic
  • conspiracy
  • denial
  • fake
  • hoax
  • debunk

Evaluate Your Sources

EvaluateAs a college student you know that your job is to evaluate the sources you use for your papers, presentations and research. But how do you do it?

These steps are most appropriate for sources available from the library, but they can be tweaked for web and news sources. Get tips for spotting fake sites, fake news and media bias

1. What Does the Author Know About the Subject?

What are the author’s credentials?

Look for information like the author's education, experience, occupation, position, and other publications by the author to help you determine whether the author knows about their subject.

Where to find credentials for articles

Articles may or may not present credentials. Popular magazines usually just list the author's name, but sometimes even that is not listed. Articles in professional or scholarly journals may list credentials at the beginning or end of an article and usually include the name of the author and details that pertain to their expertise on the topic, such as education, occupation or college or university at which the author teaches on the subject. (see the chart below under 5. Review and Editing).

Credentials

Where to find credentials for books

The credentials of the author of a book are frequently on the jacket, or at the beginning of a book.

Credentials

Where to find credentials for websites

Websites, like articles, may or may not present credentials. A common place for Websites to list credentials is at the top or bottom of the page. You may have to go back to the home page of the site to see credentials. If credentials are not listed, that does not mean that the author has no expertise, but it does make it hard for you to evaluate whether he/she/they do and that means the sources may not be appropriate for college level research.

Credentials

3. Where Did the Author Get the Information?

What sources did the author of your source use?

The amount and type of documentation used affects the value of your source and may help you verify the facts or conclusions presented. Documentation generally consists of bibliography, footnotes, credits, sources, or quotations. Resources that include documentation are considered more reliable and scholarly and are more suitable for college level research. Your instructors know that having documentation makes it easier to evaluate a work--that's why it's usually required on your research papers!

Where to find the documentation

Documentation is usually at the end of a book, article, or Web page.

Documentation

4. When Was the Material Written?

The date of publication may determine the value of a source. 

If you are researching computer information, even a year old may be obsolete. If you are researching literature, resources that are 50 years old may still be valid. Frequently your instructor may restrict your resources to a given time period relative to the subject, such as no older then 5 years.

Where to find publication date for books or articles

Date of publication should be clearly listed at the front of a book or periodical.

 

Where to find publication date for websites

Websites may have this information, usually at the bottom of the page.

Timeliness

5. Was the material reviewed for publication?

When researching for college, keep in mind that scholarly journals and magazines are quite different. Scholarly journals have content that has been written by scholars or experts in their field. The most authoritative scholarly journals are peer reviewed. See the chart below for a comparison of scholarly journals to popular magazines.

Was the material reviewed, edited or fact checked for publication?

Reviewed or edited articles are more closely scrutinized for accuracy and value. Professional or scholarly journals have more reviewed and edited articles than popular magazines (see the chart below).

Where to find review/editing for articles or books

Check the front of the periodical or book for information on the editing, review and selection process for that periodical. Some databases such as Academic OneFile, Academic Search Complete and Research Library let you limit your search to scholarly or peer reviewed journals.

Where to find review/editing for websites

Websites may have this information at the beginning or end of a page or on the home page of the site, but are much less likely to have been reviewed. 

The chart below lists criteria that can be used to tell whether you have an article from a scholarly journal or from a popular magazine. Most of the criteria listed for scholarly journal articles can also be applied to books and open access sources to help determine their value. The more criteria your resource has listed under the Scholarly Journals column, the more likely it will be a good resource.

Scholarly Journals

Popular Magazines

Lengthy, detailed articles Brief articles
References and sources listed References and sources seldom given
Graphs, charts, usually no photographs Photographs
Articles written by an expert, always signed (author's name listed) Articles usually written by staff or freelance writer, frequently unsigned (author's name not listed)
Credentials of author listed Credentials usually unlisted
Aimed at people in the field Aimed at general public
Few or no ads Lots of Ads
May be peer reviewed Not peer reviewed

Scholarly JournalExample Scholarly Journals:

Journal of Applied Psychology

JAMA

Modern Fiction Studies

 

Popular MagazineExample Popular Magazines:

Fortune

Reader's Digest

People