Debaters’ arguments generally have solid evidence supporting their claims. Evidence can come from anywhere – newspapers, journal articles, studies, books, primary documents, etc. The type of evidence varies based on the topic being debated, but when gathering research, you want to ask yourself four questions:
Is the source reputable? Sources should have a good reputation for “getting it right” – newswires such as the AP and Reuters tend to be less credible than newspapers. Wikipedia is good background reading to get an overview of a topic, but doesn’t have a reputation of being a credible source.
Is the source verifiable? This refers to the ability to verify the data and claims made by the source. If a source is based on a personal interview or some other insider knowledge, that generally cannot be verified through independent means.
Is the source authoritative? Different sources are expert at different fields. The Office of Budget and Management is an authority on budget policy on the US, but may not be the ideal source for a resolution about foreign policy in the Middle East. Think about whether the source in question is an expert on the field the legislation is about.
Is the source recent? While not every source has to be up-to-the-minute, generally, the more recent the source, the better. As current events evolve, older sources may become outdated or irrelevant, but the nature of timeliness will vary based on the topic.
Excellent research sites include The Economist (www.economist.com), considered the “bible” of current events nationally and internationally; The Hill (www.thehill.com), which focuses on all things US Government-centric (POTUS, SCOTUS, Congress); and The Week (www.theweek.com), which regularly summarizes the major domestic and international stories from multiple points of view.
Other good sources, considered relatively unbiased, include Associated Press (www.apnews.com), The Wall Street Journal (www.wsj.com), The BBC (www.bbc.com/news), Reuters (www.reuters.com), The Christian Science Monitor (www.csmonitor.com), NPR (www.npr.org/sections/news), Bloomberg (www.bloomberg.com), and the Pew Research Center (www.pewresearch.org).