Answers to Stanford Study

The following are the answers to the Stanford Study, which asked students to answer the same questions you answered. It's important to note that many students who were part of the study answered incorrectly, so do not feel bad if you answered incorrectly, too. 

1. Is the “We Know You’ve Got a Story” banner an article or an advertisement? How do you know? Explain your logic. 

Correct answer:   This is an advertisement.  You can tell because they are asking for money.  It includes phrases like "Limited time only" and "save $20" and the promo code. 

2. Is the “Should California Stop Growing Almonds” block an article or an advertisement? How do you know?  Explain your logic. 

Correct answer:   This is an article.  Here are some clues:  Nobody is asking for money.  The author is a person rather than an organization.  The article has a persuasive aim, and it's hard to imagine the economic incentive for this argument.   

3. Is the “Real Reasons Women Don’t Go Into Tech” block an article or an advertisement? How do you know? Explain your logic.

Correct answer:   This is an advertisement.  You can tell because of the term “sponsored content.”  According to, sponsored content can be defined as: “material in an online publication which resembles the publication's editorial content but is paid for by an advertiser and intended to promote the advertiser's product.”

Please note that an advertisement can look 100% like an article.  It can be long, can contain information, can be written by an author, can have a title, etc.  It is an advertisement simply because it is designed to sell something.  Here are some other identifying features:  Typically, individuals or organizations that are trying to sell their product, purchase the space (whether visual, textual, aural or otherwise) from the magazine or program where the ad appears.  Additionally, these adds are often created by advertising departments or organizations but can be made to look like they are created by everyday individuals. 

4. Examine the picture above. Does this post provide strong evidence about the conditions near the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant? Explain your reasoning.

Correct answer:   No. Nowhere does it say that this picture is taken near Fukishima. We also don't know when it was taken. We don't know anything about the person sharing the photo.

Also, while on one hand it might be true that radiated flowers look like this as the caption claims, the source is not claiming that these flowers are examples of what happened in Fukishima. This is a way for a source to be honest and misleading at the same time.  This is a common online trick that often works on those that haven’t learned to look for it.

On the other hand, it's possible that these strange daisies are a naturally occurring variety of daisies — maybe these daisies look like this everywhere they grow on earth! The picture is asking you to make an assumption that something is wrong with the daisies.   

 Many of you missed this one but will be savvier in the future :). 

5. Why might this tweet be a useful source for your research? Why might it not be useful? Explain your reasoning.

It's an okay source of data. It's from a nationally recognized polling organization, and the tweet has a link to the study, which you can follow for more information. Just because it's a tweet doesn't mean it's automatically a bad source for your research. Important scientists, historians, and journalists use social media and often share information on these platforms with links to more information. 

Some of you only answered one part of this question.  Of course, there are several ways to assess the credibility of the tweet, and many of you did this effectively.  However, this question was not about credibility it was about usefulness.  When determining whether you want to use a source, credibility is only one factor that you need to consider:   

The truth is that absolutely any source could be both “useful” for some research purposes, and “not useful” for others. It all depends on what the research questions are.  A tweet might be a bad source if the researcher wants to prove or understand the nuances or specifics of a situation.  A tweet can hide biases, and/or take numbers out of context.  Another problem – many audiences might not trust evidence that comes from a tweet.

On the other hand, this tweet could be an excellent source for a researcher investigating how gun control attitudes are expressed through popular media.  In those cases, the credibility of the source might not even be relevant.  The key is for researchers to make good decisions about whether a source is sufficiently credible, relevant and appropriate to serve their research purposes.  

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