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COUN532_Ethics: Evaluate Sources

ACT UP - Evaluating sources is social justice work

ACT UP means to act in a way that pushes against dominant narratives and oppressive hierarchies of knowledge production. 

  • Move away from passively consuming media.
  • Think critically about the resources you are using, citing, and forwarding in your community
  • We all have a social responsibility to share information that is true. This makes us informed cultural producers of information every time we repost, retweet, share, or site information.
  • Use the ACT UP method to evaluate your sources, push against dominant narratives, burst filter bubbles and oppressive citation circles

This is a borrowed & reused acronym from ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) - a direct action advocacy group working to help those living with AIDS. While many think of ACT UP as being active in the 1980's, the work of ACT UP is still being done today. Remember, social justice change takes time.


  • Who created the resource? Google the authors - background information matters. What else did they write? What organizations are they affiliated with? 
  • Intention/motivation is critical - why did the author write the piece? To educate, convince, share information?
  • For websites: find the "About us" section 
  • if you can't find anything about who created the resource, be skeptical


  • What date was the resource published?
  • When was the website last updated?

T - Truth

  • Can you verify the claims in the resource through other resources (not ones that cite the resource or which the resource cited!)
  • Are there typos & spelling mistakes throughout the text? Is the author is sloppy in their writing, might they be sloppy in their facts?
  • Just because you found something from a reputable site does not mean that the site cannot contain shoddy research, misinformation, or false claims. Even journal articles from reputable, peer-reviewed journals can be retracted. 

U - Unbiased

  • Obviously, we are all biased , so we're really looking for impartial resources
  • Is the resource open about their biases or trying to hide them?
  • Who is funding the research? Any conflicts of interest?

P  - Privilege

  • Academic publishing has historically privileged white men and this still continues today
  • Who or which groups are missing from the research conversation?
  • Methodology - who was not part of the study? Does the study make claims about all people when the participants were all male, for example
  • Who has access to the source you found? Is it freely available or behind a pay wall that you have access to because you're a student?



Sahura, D. (2020, April 6). Evaluate Sources: ACT UPSalem State University Library. 

Positionality matters

"Positionality refers to the stance or positioning of the researcher in relation to the social and political context of the study - the community, the organization or the participant group. The position adopted by a research affects every phase of the research process..." (Coghlan, D., & Brydon-Miller, M. (2014). The SAGE encyclopedia of action research (Vols. 1-2). London, : SAGE Publications Ltd doi: 10.4135/9781446294406)

What and who you choose to cite is a reflection of your positionalities

Your positionalities affect who you include or exclude in your research. Who YOU consider an authority on the subject matters

Citation selecting is not passive. We make conscious decisions about how to include and exclude in our research

Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism - Dr. Safiya Noble

Dr. Noble is an Associate Professor at UCLA in the departments of Information Studies, African American Studies, and Gender Studies. She co-directs the UCLA's Center for Critical Internet Inquiry.


This guide was created by Frances Brady for Adler University.