I have an 8-10 page research paper due for my communications class. It is due in 5 weeks. The proposal was due tonight. I just turned it in. I’m not going to talk about the topic of the paper here. What I am going to talk about is something that came up as I was reading the assignment guidelines.
The professor gave us examples of categories of acceptable scholarly sources, and types of sources he discouraged.
Items that are acceptable include:
- Any data and reports from government and international agencies such as FCC, FTC, DOC, ITU, WTO, EU, UN, World Bank, etc.
Items that are discouraged include:
- Wikipedia and similar online encyclopedias
- Any corporate PR documents
- Various private corporations provide data on their activities. Use them very carefully as they tend to be part of marketing strategies
- Politically charged think-tanks such as the Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise, Cato Institute
The last item is the list was the first thing I noted. It seems that the think-tanks we are warned against are all conservative. There is no balance in the recommendations. For instance, he could have listed the Center for American Progress as an example, and balance the list of conservative think tanks with a progressive one.
Actually, I went online to find a list of think-tanks, to verify that the three listed were all conservative. I found a list on the influence of think tanks in the media, as seen by how often they are cited. The article mentioned the top 25. I notice think-tanks come in conservative, conservative/libertarian,center-right, centrist, center-left, progressive. It seems that there are no liberal think-tanks.
This reminded me of discussions between two people who used to ride the bus with me a couple of years ago. The one guy would always talk about how balanced a news story coverage or interview panel was, and same someone as the conservative end of the panel. To which the other guy said the first guy had no clue what conservative meant. The guy listed as conservative by the first guy was barely a moderate on the second guy’s spectrum.
What concerns me about the paper guidelines, is that the professor never even thought to warn people about liberal think tanks, only conservative ones.
From the list of acceptable sources I only listed one from the full-page of examples. Apparently governments are good sources of information, because we know they are unbiased and have no agendas.
If I had copied the full list, the one theme that would have come up to the acceptable sources is: establishment. And no, that isn’t the traditional concept, the big business, corporate, etc., establishment. This is establishment as in the elite of media and academia.
Social Judgment Theory talks about the Theoretical Latitude of Acceptance — the range of opinions close enough to yours to be considered acceptable. The people on the bus with me had different ranges, and defined moderate differently. The sources deemed acceptable for the paper have that same Latitude of Acceptance range. While think tanks aren’t acceptable, it is conservative think-tanks that are the focus of the Latitude of Rejection.
I guess I need to take the advice from Social Judgment Theory on how to be persuasive with people who don’t share my views.