The Ellen Clarke Bertrand Library

News Literacy: Evaluating News Sources

Four Moves and a Habit

Researchers at the Stanford History Education Group did a study and discovered that students aren't great at knowing how to find out if facts are fake. Then they studied trained historians and found out they weren't great at it either - except within their own field. Who was fastest at spotting inaccuracies and misinformation? Fact-checkers. They have developed some shortcuts that are useful for all of us to know. One of the most important is to read laterally - that is, to check some basics by consulting other sources before you spend a lot of time buying into an argument - or spend a few seconds to share something that turns out to be false.

Mike Caulfield, who among other things is the director of the Digital Polarization Institute, has written free textbook on how to check facts. In a nutshell, here are four things you can do and one habit to adopt to become better at distinguishing what is factually true. You may not have to do all four moves - you may find out in the very first step that someone reputable has already determined something is true or false, and then you're done. 

Here is a graphical representation of Four Moves and a Habit

The habit is to check your emotions!  The four moves are to...

  • Check for previous work: Look around to see if someone else has already fact-checked the claim or provided a synthesis of research.
  • Go upstream to the source: Go “upstream” to the source of the claim. Most web content is not original. Get to the original source to understand the trustworthiness of the information.
  • Read laterally: Once you get to the source of a claim, read what other people say about the source (publication, author, etc.). 
  • Circle back: If you hit dead ends, or find yourself going down an increasingly confusing rabbit hole, back up and start over knowing what you know now. You’re likely to take a more informed path with different search terms and better decisions.

(Adapted from Gustavas Adolphus College's Fact Checking Guide)

 

 

OTM Consumer Handbook: Fake News Edition

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