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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
July 12, 2004. Steven C. Markoff, the Chairman of ProCon.org, has been active in trying to find pros and cons of various controversial issues since 1986. He created an organization to pursue this effort, and after going through several iterations, that organization became ProCon.org on July 12, 2004. Read a detailed personal statement from Mr. Markoff about the origins and background of ProCon.org.
ProCon.org was initially funded primarily by its founder, Steve Markoff. Since our formation in July 2004, more of the organization’s revenue has come from third party sources including private companies, foundations, individual donors, and others. As a measure of our transparency, all ProCon.org donors for the last three years are listed on our Donors & Sponsors page. Funding prior to the last three years can be found in our Annual Reports, Audited Financial Statements, and 990 Forms – all of which we have made available online for review. ProCon.org has also raised money by partnering with the March of Dimes Canada via charity golf tournaments.
"Promoting critical thinking, education, and informed citizenship by presenting controversial issues in a straightforward, nonpartisan, primarily pro-con format."
We believe that most (if not all) people, including the people employed at ProCon.org, have biases on many topics. However, ProCon.org as an organization is neither conservative nor liberal nor otherwise politically biased. We work hard to be nonpartisan and to ensure that an individual’s bias does not appear in or affect our organization’s work.
No. ProCon.org is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit public charity. Although we have sites about the ACLU and D.A.R.E, ProCon.org is not affiliated with either organization (although our Chairman has been a board member of the ACLU Foundation of Southern California for many years). ProCon.org has also raised money by partnering with the March of Dimes Canada via charity golf tournaments.
Each page on ProCon.org has a "Cite This Page” link in the bottom footer of the page. Clicking the "Cite This Page” link will show proper bibliographic citations for that specific page in APA, Chicago, MLA, and Turabian style formats.
Yes. ProCon.org has been referenced in the media hundreds of times. For information on our topics or to schedule an interview, please contact our President Kamy Akhavan at 310-587-1407 (or by email: kamy[at]procon.org).
We at ProCon.org generally encourage people to reprint material from our site (or link to our site) because it helps to advance our mission of promoting critical thinking, education, and informed citizenship. Click here for a link to our "Reprinting Policy" for all reprinted and otherwise used ProCon.org content. We have broken down our policy into two sections, Reprinting Policy under "Fair Use" and Reprinting Policy for Commercial or non-"Fair Use" Requests.
Yes. When someone clicks on a ProCon.org link to a PDF file, third party website, or ProCon.org biography, the page will open (aka "pop up”) in a new Internet browser window.
No. ProCon.org is nonpartisan 501(c)(3) nonprofit public charity that presents facts, studies, pro and con statements, and related research on important social issues. We do not provide:
The information presented on our sites is intended for the public, policy makers, the media, scholars, scientists, judges, attorneys, librarians, teachers, and students. For more information about our audience, please visit our webpage "Who Uses ProCon.org?"
The number of ProCon.org website sessions is tracked on our Traffic page where you can see the breakdown by month, year, and website.
Does ProCon.org make students lazy researchers since they have access to so much information in one place?
Perhaps, but the primary focus of ProCon.org is to promote critical thinking and not to develop individual research skills. We conduct research so that our readers can more easily understand diverse perspectives on controversial issues.
We continually ask our readers for new topic suggestions. Please send us your questions, ideas, and comments. Strong reader demand has led to the development of our standardized testing, euthanasia, immigration, death penalty, social networking, cell phones, drinking age, abortion, 2008 election, and churches and taxes websites.
Yes. Although ProCon.org is a US-based organization that tends to focus on issues important to Americans, much of our research has international relevance. For example, two of our websites, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the war in Iraq, are clearly international. Dozens of our questions and resources have an international focus (euthanasia laws in Holland and Belgium, doping in the Olympics, and abortion, prostitution, drinking age, and felon voting laws around the world, among others). In addition, many of our other topics are not restricted by geography (cell phone safety, healthfulness of milk, global climate change, the origins of sexual orientation, etc.).
Not normally. Usually one person leads the research process on an issue website, and it is common for several researchers to contribute by adding biographies, questions, pro and con responses, resources, etc. The researcher in charge of the website is acknowledged on the About Us page, and any researcher who contributed over 250 hours or 33% of an issue website (whichever is less) is acknowledged as a contributing researcher.
ProCon.org presents many sides of an issue - not just two. For instance, on the issue of medical marijuana, we ask one core question--"Should marijuana be a medical option?"--which has a pro response or a con response. However, we also ask over 75 other questions about medical marijuana to explore the nuance and diversity of opinions on the issue.
Our questions are developed by researching the topics, contacting related experts and organizations, and receiving feedback and ideas from readers. The questions are intended to thoroughly explore the core question and related issues.
We seek a diversity of responses to our questions. For example, if we receive two similar responses from two equally strong sources (for example, both 3-stars), then we will generally give the posting to the respondent who has fewer other responses posted on our sites.
No. We always try to include the best arguments on both sides of all debates, and we also always work to make the pro-con columns visually balanced. Sometimes one side, for whatever reason, simply takes less space to make their case. Therefore, equality in column length is not always achievable. Any visual imbalance in a pro v. con column is unintentional and does not suggest any bias for one side or the other. We hope that our readers focus more on the quality of the arguments than their length.
Our sources include websites, magazines, newspapers, libraries, transcripts, videos, interviews, emails, legislation, direct correspondence, and more.
How does ProCon.org determine whether a source is Pro, Con, NC (not clearly pro or con), or Now on an issue?
We base our Pro, Con, Not Clearly Pro or Con (NC), or Now designation on what the sourced person or organization has said, written, done, or otherwise verifiably expressed about an issue.
"Exact Quotes” are shown within double quotation marks. Omissions are shown with ellipses (...); words added to quotes, usually for context, are shown with square brackets [words].
We choose facts for the "Did You Know?” section based on the following criteria:
Yes and no. Sites that are not labeled "archived" are sometimes updated several times per week and other times fewer than once or twice every few months.
We reserve editorial discretion in determining what materials are put on and taken off our sites. All policies are subject to change and exceptions can be approved by ProCon.org's Managing Editor or Chairman. Some decisions are presented to ProCon.org's Board of Directors.
All ProCon.org sites remain hidden from public view until the Managing Editor considers it at least 80% complete. At 80% complete: the outline, questions, resources, etc. should have been solidified and approved in writing by the researcher and Managing Editor; the user experience should be "good enough,” so that the user’s first impression is always positive; all links on the posted site must point to pages containing content. At 80% complete, we may start advertising the site and submitting it to search engines for indexing.
We archive a website when: the site is considered "good enough" by the Chairman and Managing Editor; the core question of the issue site has been resolved or is otherwise irrelevant; the site is considered complete (95% by policy); the site’s average quality is in the "A" range (90% "A"s or higher); the site has passed the point of diminishing returns and updates to the site have low value; and archiving the site has been authorized in writing by the Managing Editor and Chairman.
Yes. We generally provide the source's name and title and education along with the title of the article, and name and date of publication where that source's quotation appeared. You'll see that information in the introductory statement that precedes every pro or con or not clearly pro or con statement.
ProCon.org normally adds full-text PDF copies of studies referenced on the website unless the study’s publisher explicitly bars reprinting without authorization (and we have no such authorization), requires a fee-based licensing agreement (and we have no such agreement), or charges for public access to their copyrighted study.
The quotes listed in our biographies are responses to the core question posted on each topic's homepage. We contacted the individuals and organizations' principals (or spokespersons) or found a quote in a mainstream publication that answers the question. We show the dates of the quotes so the reader can put them in a historical context.
When we receive responses to our questions, we generally send an email clarifying the questions to which we understood they responded. We may ask clarifying follow-up questions in an effort to keep the comments on point and clear.
Although many people and organizations are occasionally careless or intentionally misleading with facts, data, and communications, we at ProCon.org believe that government and their officials should always disseminate accurate and truthful information (with the arguable exception of real national security needs).
Occasionally. We have limited resources and usually update biographies for material changes only.
Although ProCon.org will not normally remove publicly available and accurate information, including biographies, from its websites, we will remove or modify information that we have determined is incorrect or misleading.
If a source believes that ProCon.org has presented his/her quoted statement out of context or in an otherwise misleading manner, then what is that person’s recourse?
He or she should let us know their position and request by email. We may leave the quote as is, add an Editor’s Note (in red) to the biography explaining that the quoted person believes we improperly quoted him/her and why, and/or include a PDF of the entire article/statement so that our readers can make up their own minds about the statement(s) we have quoted.
Evaluating the credibility of one person's statements is difficult if not impossible, especially without knowing, for example, each person's background, training, affiliations, education, or experience.
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No. We do not allow direct public access to post or edit the information on our sites because crowd-sourced "wiki" websites ("wiki" is defined by Webster's dictionary as "a Web site that allows visitors to make changes, contributions, or corrections.") often lack the stringent quality that our organization requires to ensure accuracy, integrity, proper sourcing, and utility for our readers.
Yes. When someone writes to suggest that we review particular studies or articles, we normally ask for the exact comments they think are suitable for specific questions so we can more efficiently find and review them.
No. ProCon.org does not accept submissions for publication of third party articles or studies.
Yes. If your lesson plans or educational resources reference ProCon.org content, then please let us know and we may add them to our website in "Lesson Planning with ProCon.org" or "How Schools Are Using ProCon.org" in order to give other teachers or librarians ideas for their own plans.
No. We do not take positions or offer critiques of third party information sources.
Yes. Links to ProCon.org are greatly appreciated. We only ask that ProCon.org be represented as an unbiased site and that the content not be misrepresented. Please keep in mind that we do not offer reciprocal links.
No. ProCon.org does not participate in any reciprocal link exchanges.
Perhaps, depending on the topic you choose, but such funding would not cause us to build a website on a topic that we did not believe was timely and appropriate.
Yes and no. We accept sponsorships but not ads.
Generally, no. Our policy is not to pay commissions on monies raised. Occasionally we have made exceptions for a specific and approved charity event, such as retaining and paying a 10% fee, to persons who have no connection to ProCon.org, as compensation for signing up celebrities and donor/players for our Dec. 2, 2013 charity golf tournament. For events such as this, we believe it was less expensive for us than if we had hired marketing companies, fundraising consultants, or additional staff.
Contact ProCon.org by email at info [at] procon.org or by phone at 310-451-9596.
Yes, ProCon.org normally responds to emails within one business day. ProCon.org does not send a response if the email is from a bogus email address; lewd, offensive, or otherwise clearly demonstrates an abuse of our Contact Us pages; uses unidentifiable characters or language; the email is one of repeated and unrelated customer replies to our replies; or the email is threatening or litigious.
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