Currency Relevance Authority Accuracy Purpose
Currency: Is this a recent article? Does the date affect the content or context? Some articles shared on social media can be older articles that may relate to current events, but not have current or accurate information. If the article is not recent, the claims may no longer be relevant or have been proven wrong.
Relevance: Is the article relevant? It is useful? Does it fill your information need? While some articles may appear to be addressing a current topic, you must read past the headline and determine the relevancy of the content for your purposes. Be aware of click bait.
Authority: Who is the author? Has the author written other articles on the same or similar topic? Have they demonstrated expertise and experience? What is the source? Does it have an agenda or bias? Well known does not always mean authoritative and decisions and understanding of authority can itself be biased and leave out important voices, so you need to do the research.
Accuracy: Can the content be verified by multiple sources? Is it factual? Are you aware of and do you understand the sources biases? Be skeptical of articles only appearing in one place that you are unable to confirm. What is the original source of the story? This is particularly important with images that are shared widely across social media.
Purpose: Does this article provoke an emotional response? The intent of a valid sources is to inform. While an emotional response to specific information is to be expected, inaccurate articles are often written for the sole purpose of provoking anger, outrage, fear, happiness, excitement or confirmation of ones' own beliefs.
Adapted from: Meriam Library, California State University
When evaluating a websites or other sources, it is essential to go beyond the original source and see what others are saying about it.
Think about it... you probably wouldn't trust a chef's review of his own food, because he has a vested interest in promoting his restaurant. Reviews from objective restaurant-goers would be much more credible, since they have no personal stake in the restaurant's success.
The same idea applies to evaluating websites. Approach content written by authors about their own websites skeptically. Authors are likely to promote their brand or services, rather than share an honest review of their work. To get an accurate idea of credibility, you must seek out information from other sources.
This technique is called "reading laterally," because it involves moving sideways from the original source to gather information from a variety of other sources.