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InfoGuides | Pepperdine Libraries

FYS: Debate, Dialogue and Advocacy (Abi Smith): Home

Articles (Databases)

Think Tanks

"Think Tanks are policy-oriented research organizations that provide expertise to government."

 --- Critchlow, Donald T. "Think Tanks." Dictionary of American History, edited by Stanley I. Kutler, 3rd ed., vol. 8, Charles Scribner's Sons, 2003, pp. 117-118. Gale Virtual Reference Library,

"Think tank: The term denotes a group of people who are paid to do nothing but read, discuss, think, and write, usually to address and redress a matter of vital importance to humanity...

The institutions on this list make up the 50 most influential think tanks in the United States. What makes a think tank influential? ...Our approach in ranking think tanks takes a different tack..." --The Best Schools 


Evaluating Sources (3min)


Types of News

Editorial: an article in a newspaper presenting the opinion of the editor(s) so it does not receive a byline because it represents the opinion of the newspaper.

Purpose: To give opinions on current issues and events, written by the editorial board.

How to find editorials in library databases: use the advanced search and look for "Editorial" as a document or article type limit or look for the limit after doing a search.

Op-ed: (or “opposite editorial”) are articles devoted to commentary, feature articles, and opinions. Authors are not officially affiliated with the newspaper and can range from state legislators to local business owners and interested local citizens. Op-eds must be approved by the editorial page or opinion page editor and will also be cleared by a copy editor. 

Purpose: To discuss and provide arguments on issues of relevance to the readers of the newspaper, written by named authors not associated with the newspaper's editorial board.

How to Find: In online databases, search for keywords related to the topic and look for document type limit: Commentary.

Letter to the Editor: usually written in direct response to an article, editorial, op-ed, or column that the paper has printed. They can also be a reaction to or notification of a newsworthy event. They are printed on the editorial page. 

Purpose: To provide reactions from readers to the content of the newspaper.

How to find: In online databases, search for keywords related to the topic and look for document type limit: Letters.

Column: A single article containing the author’s opinion 

News Story:  a news report of any length, usually presented in a straightforward style and without editorial comment. Most often written in the inverted pyramid style, with summary lead. 

Featured Story: a story that is written to inform, but also to entertain. A feature article builds upon the interests of the audience and can be written more creatively than traditional inverted pyramid formatting. These stories focus on people and what they like to do, where they live, what they eat, what entertains them; the sky's the limit as long as it interests the audience. 

News Analysis: More and more frequently, you’ll see newspapers such as The New York Times printing pieces that are not quite news articles, not quite editorials and not quite features. They go into more depth than a straight news article, described above, typically would, offering an analysis of events and how it might affect the surrounding area. Pieces like this require a great deal of knowledge about the event, the area in which it takes place and the people involved, and thus are usually written by more experienced reporters who specialize in covering certain areas or topics.

Press Release: written or recorded communication directed at members of the news media for the purpose of announcing something ostensibly newsworthy. Typically, they are sent to the assignment editors.  

Definitions were taken from: 

Subject Guide

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Cory Aitchison
Pepperdine University Libraries
24255 Pacific Coast Hwy
Malibu, CA 90263

Scholarly vs. Popular

Scholarly Publication: is one in which the content is written by experts in a particular field of study - generally for the purpose of sharing original research or analyzing others' findings. Scholarly work will thoroughly cite all source materials used and is usually subject to "peer review" prior to publication.

Popular Publications:  aim to inform a wide array of readers about issues of interest and are much more informal in tone and scope. Examples include general news, business and entertainment publications such as Time Magazine, Business Weekly, Vanity Fair.

  • Note, special interest publications which are not specifically written for an academic audience are also considered "popular" i.e., National Geographic, Scientific American, Psychology Today.

These definitions were taken from the research help guide at UBC


Viewing the landscape: 

  • Who Cares/ Is affected?
  • Who are the experts? try to find more interviews or article by these people or organizations 
  • Are there original documents referenced in the story?  Try to track down and read the original material yourself 
  • What are the opposing or differing views?
  • Try to connect the people & organization to the views they support/represent.  
  • What information did the news article not have that you think will help you better understand the topic?   

Scholarly v. Popular  

A Popular and Scholarly take on the same subject... Look at the attached articles from Peace and Conflict Studies and National Geographic about Ivory funding terror. how are similar, how are they different?