MU LibraryFINDGET HELPSERVICESABOUT Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

HE/NU 370-50: Alternative/Complementary Health Topics (Professor Paskewich): Evaluate Sources

Four Moves for Fact Checking

Four Moves for Fact Checking

Use these tactics to help you decide if information is true.

  • 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.). The truth is in the network.
  • Circle back: If you get lost, 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.

In general, you can try these moves in sequence. If you find success at any stage, your work might be done.

When you encounter a claim you want to check, your first move might be to see if sites like Politifact, or Snopes, or even Wikipedia have researched the claim (Check for previous work).

If you can’t find previous work on the claim, start by trying to trace the claim to the source. If the claim is about research, try to find the journal it appeared in. If the claim is about an event, try to find the news publication in which it was originally reported (Go upstream).

Maybe you get lucky and the source is something known to be reputable, such as the journal Science or the newspaper the New York Times. Again, if so, you can stop there. If not, you’re going to need to read laterally, finding out more about this source you’ve ended up at and asking whether it is trustworthy (Read laterally).

And if at any point you fail–if the source you find is not trustworthy, complex questions emerge, or the claim turns out to have multiple sub-claims–then you circle back, and start a new process. Rewrite the claim. Try a new search of fact-checking sites, or find an alternate source (Circle back).

For more information on fact-checking strategies see Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers.

 

Adapted from Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers by Michael A. Caulfield and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Evaluating Information Rubric

Evaluating Information Rubric

Here are some general questions you should ask when evaluating print sources and websites.

Evaluation Criteria What to Look for in Books and Periodicals What to Look for in Websites
Currency

Does the paper/assignment require the most current information, historical information, or information over a period of time?

If you are researching a topic that is currently in the news, you may want only the most recent information. If you are researching a historical event, you may want information written at the time of the event.

For books: What is the copyright date on the reverse of the title page? Does it meet your needs? Is this the most recent edition?

For periodicals:  Does the publication date meet your needs? 

Does the paper/assignment require the most current information, historical information, or information over a period of time?

When was the website published or created? (look for a copyright date on the homepage)

When was the site last updated or revised?

Are the links up to date?

Authority

What are the author's credentials and reputation?

What other works on the subject has the author written?

Is the author an expert or researcher in the field? A government agency? A journalist?

Has the author been cited by your instructor?

Has the author been cited in other publications you've read?

Who is supplying the information?

Is it an educational institution (.edu extension)? A government agency (.gov)? A commercial supplier (.com)? A non-profit organization (.org)?

Is the supplier a reputable organization? (look for an “About Us” link on the homepage)

Is there an author or contact person named? What are the author's credentials (see "What to look for in books and periodicals")?

Has this site been reviewed by experts or professional organizations?

Validity/Accuracy

If the information is not current, is it still accurate?

Can the information be verified or supported by other sources? Do other sources report the same findings?

Is evidence given to support the information?

Are sources of factual information cited?

Are sources of information cited?

Compared to other sources, is the information complete and accurate?

Are the links also complete and accurate, or are there discrepancies?

Is selection criteria provided for the links found in the website?

Audience

Who is the intended audience? Researchers or experts? Trade or professional members? The general public?

Is the source appropriate for your needs, or is it too technical, advanced or elementary?

Who is the intended audience? Experts or the general public? 

Is the site appropriate for your needs, or is it too technical or too elementary? Is it too full of jargon?

Point of View (bias)

Does the source have a particular bias?

Does it promote the ideas of a particular group - religious, political, etc.?

Is the information objective or partial?

Is it factual information or interpretations of facts?

Are there assumptions and opinions stated?

Does the information appear to be filtered or is it free from bias?

Could the organization sponsoring the site have a stake in how the information is presented?

Does the site contain advertisements?

Are various points of view, theories, techniques, or schools of thought offered?

Purpose/Context

Is the information for academic purposes or entertainment?

How closely does the book or journal relate to the purpose for which you need that information?

What is the purpose of the website or article?

How closely does the website relate to the purpose for which you need that information?

 

This work is adapted from Evaluating Information Rubric by Penn State University Libraries and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.