Think tanks or policy institutes are organizations that exist to conduct research and promote, or advocate for, positions related to ideologies of the founding members. Think tanks promote views and agendas related to social policy, foreign policy, economic issues, science and technology, and industrial or business policies.
These organizations often publish results of their research or their position or policy papers in magazines, newsletters and journals, which may be freely accessible on their web sites, or may also be available in databases such as LexisNexis and Academic Search Complete. One example is the CATO Journal.
To determine if a publication is produced by a think tank or policy institute, and to determine a potential bias:
1. Search for the publication in Google or another search engine.
2. Find the home page for the publication. This will be the publisher's site.
3. Examine the publisher's web site, clicking on the "About" section to learn about the organization's focus and agenda(s).
In newspapers and magazines opinion columns and editorials will typically be separated from the rest of the content of the publication under section headings like "Opinion" or "Editorial" or "Comment." This is usually true for both the printed publications and for the online equivalents. For example, the menu bar for the online New York Times clearly delineates the opinion/editorial section from the rest of the publication's content:
But, when you read articles that you retrieve in online databases such as Academic Search Complete, it is often harder to determine the nature of an article, to know whether the article is news or opinion.
In some databases, an article will be clearly labeled as "editorial" or "opinion" in the record for the article, as in this example to the left from the Academic Search Complete database.
So, look at the database record in addition to reading the article to help you determine if there may be a bias.
If the database record gives you no clues, you will need to use your own critical faculties to judge for yourself.