Some of the hardest documents to assess are those produced by individuals and groups advocating a particular perspective, argument or goal. Examples of groups who may produce such material include political parties and the many kinds of pressure groups that operate online.
Similarly, individuals who have a particularly strong view on an issue or topic may produce an advocacy document or participate in a newsgroup or listserv discussion.
Once you recognise that you are actually reading an advocacy document it is important to remember that the quality and nature of these documents varies, with some being produced deliberately to distort information so as to support the point of view of that group or individual, while others are well researched and are used to present as fair and rigorous an argument as possible. Therefore, you must be careful to evaluate and use advocacy documents appropriately.
Equally, once you realise that you have found an advocacy document you must consider its appropriateness as a source of information for your research. While it is clear that many advocacy documents are good for helping you learn about opposing or untraditional views, there is little doubt that the information on these sites should be viewed with caution, as it may be distorted to benefit the individual’s or organisation’s argument.
Because of this, if you do decide to use an advocacy document in your research ensure you evaluate it very carefully, place what it says in the context of the particular standpoint it may be expressing, and always try to consult and where necessary include documents that present opposing viewpoints.
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