The use of newspaper data in the study of collective action

Jennifer Suzanne Earl, Andrew Martin, John D. McCarthy, Sarah A. Soule

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

469 Scopus citations


Studying collective action with newspaper accounts of protest events, rare only 20 years ago, has become commonplace in the past decade. A critical literature has accompanied the growth of protest event analysis. The literature has focused on selection bias - particularly which subset of events are covered - and description bias - notably, the veracity of the coverage. The "hard news" of the event, if it is reported, tends to be relatively accurate. However, a newspaper's decision to cover an event at all is influenced by the type of event, the news agency, and the issue involved. In this review, we discuss approaches to detecting bias, as well as ways to factor knowledge about bias into interpretations of protest event data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-80
Number of pages16
JournalAnnual Review of Sociology
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes



  • Description bias
  • News source
  • Protest
  • Protest event analysis
  • Selection bias
  • Social movements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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