No matter how many delegates may flaunt their ability to succeed in committee with little to no preparation, a good delegate will fall prey to cutting corners; never, never underestimate the importance of quality research in Model UN. All other skills in committee–from lobbying for votes to speaking publicly to writing the resolutions themselves–are entirely contingent upon a strong, in-depth understanding of the topic of debate.
Research is a skill that can make or break a delegate, because good chairs do not suffer fools: the vast majority of the time, it is painfully obvious which delegates are well prepared, and which are making it up as they go.
That being said, there’s no need to waste time by reading countless Wikipedia pages or memorizing the GDP statistics of your assigned country. Good research comes from a diversified set of reliable sources; the use of several sources with reputational credibility will aid in the eradication of bias, misinformation, and prejudice from your research. As stated in previous All-American articles, taking information for granted will only end in disaster; every article must be read with a critical eye and every academic journal should be taken with a grain of salt. Factuality and historical accuracy is key.
Here are 5 reliable sources you can use to research for your next conference:
Though it may seem the most obvious, the official website of the United Nations is the most commonly overlooked resource in terms of conference preparation. On the official UN website, you can watch live streams of General Assembly sessions, listen to statements made by official diplomats and real world leaders, and read recent General Assembly resolutions. This is a great place to start research because there is generalized background information for nearly all widespread international issues and a description of every UN subsidiary body, many of which are translatable to Model UN committees. Further, this website allows delegates to go directly to the source: for topics that have already been debated by the General Assembly, the chances of finding an official recorded address to the General Assembly from your assigned country’s leader are very high. This is a great way to gain an overview of your country’s perspective and spark some ideas for further reading.
2. Council on Foreign Relations Global Conflict Tracker
The Council on Foreign Relations Global Conflict Tracker is among the most interactive resources available to Model UN delegates. This website tracks all major geopolitical topics or ongoing conflicts and provides extremely up-to-date records of all relevant developments. This source also has an “alerts” feature where brief, targeted updates are posted with great efficiency. There are maps with annotations and helpful diagrams to aid in visualizing and contextualizing various ongoing crises and territorial developments for armed conflicts.
3. The Associated Press
Many delegates use online news sources to research, which is acceptable, but should not make up the entirety of your research given that the vast majority of news sources have a strong partisan affiliation. The bias in these news sources along with the rampant sensationalization of news in mainstream media may, and likely will, compromise the accuracy of you research. Therefore, The Associated Press is recommended because it has a reputation for reporting clear and unbiased news. Additionally, this news source tends to focus heavily on geopolitics and international issues rather than capitalizing heavily on domestic affairs in Washington.
4. Google News
Google News is a great place for Model UN research simply because it permits delegates to search via topic and discover pertinent articles which are written by a wide variety of perspectives from across the political spectrum. It cannot be promised that all sources from Google News will be void of bias or skewed perspective–in fact, it would be ludicrous to make such a promisee–but, by reading articles from “both sides of the aisle,” a more holistic understanding of a given topic can be gained. Further, familiarizing oneself with the arguments that will likely be used by the opposition during debate will serve for better equipment for rebuttal and refutation.
5. SPJ.ORG (Society of Professional Journalists), JSTOR, or Academic Search Premier
The Society of Professional Journalism is a database with thousands of articles, academic journals, and white papers covering a broad reach of international topics. The Society of Professional Journalism puts an emphasis for their work on ethics, freedom of information, and diversity. The international journalism category listed on the “resources and missions” page of the SPJ website is especially helpful for MUN research. Similarly, JSTOR and Academic Search Premier are academic databases that provide an impressively enormous collection of compiled resources. Academic databases do not offer texts written by unqualified authors; thus, it’s a fair assumption to say that most anything found in these types of databases are credible research sources.
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