Media Literacy & Misinformation: Evaluating Sources

Learn how to recognize and prevent misinformation and discover where your news comes from.

Using Critical Thinking to Evaluate Sources

Think Critically!

The ability to think critically about information is essential to evaluating its reliability and relevance. Use the resources on this page to help you become a better news consumer and critical thinker as well as a good digital citizen

S.I.F.T. it Out

The S.I.F.T. method for evaluating information avoids the mental overload that can result from attempting to evaluate information/sources. Instead of using a checklist, you are encouraged to take action. Check it out

  • (S)top.
  • (I)nvestigate the source.
  • (F)ind better coverage.
  • (T)race claims, quotes, and media to the original context.

Source: Mike Caulfield/CIVIX

Explore All Sides

AllSides is a new resource that seeks to defuse bias and counteract polarization by encouraging users to explore issues from a variety of perspectives. It offers news, opinion and even a dictionary! AllSides also includes a patented media bias scale that's useful in evaluating the political leanings of information sources.


You've heard these terms "in the news." Here are some helpful definitions that will help provide some context.

Confirmation Bias - The tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one's existing beliefs or theories. Oxford English Dictionary

Filter Bubble  - A situation in which an Internet user encounters only information and opinions that conform to and reinforce their own beliefs, caused by algorithms that personalize an individual’s online experience. Cambridge Dictionary; term by Eli Pariser.

Post-truth - Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief. Oxford English Dictionary

Propaganda - Information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view. Oxford English Dictionary

Satire - The use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues. Oxford English Dictionary

Spin - Give (a news story or other information) a particular interpretation, especially a favorable one. Oxford English Dictionary

Truthiness - The quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true.  American Dialect Society; term by Stephen Colbert.

Adapted from: Colby-Sawyer College Library and the Center for News Literacy at Stony Brook

Having Courageous Conversations

In summer 2023, the University of Rhode Island Media Education Lab had a series of events called Courageous Conversations. The goal was to gather data and insight into why and how misinformation and conspiracies are believed and spread, and what we can do to effectively tackle this problem via interpersonal communication. In addition to its professional development opportunities, curriculum and recommended reading list, the Lab has continued offering these conversations, and representatives are always available for in person and virtual presentations. 


Courageous Conversations logo

drawing of person holding large blue heart

The Courageous Conversations events resulted in a fascinating data portal, which hosts interactive tools suitable for researchers, students and concerned citizens. Give it a try!

Video: The C.R.A.A.P. Test - Check It Out!

The C.R.A.A.P. test is a great tool for evaluating resources - watch the video and use the attached quick reference guide.

Source: Wintec Library, Waikato Institute of Technology

What to Look For

When evaluating a web news source, look for:

Domain Name – Does the story’s domain contain a country code instead of .com? This can be an indicator that you are looking at a fake news source.

Contact Page – Many legitimate news sites contain a “contact us” page. Sites that lack a “contact us” page should be questioned.

Advertisements – Many "fake news" sites contain ads for questionable content or products that do not appear on most legitimate news sources. Keep an eye out for the kind of advertisements that are shown on the page.

Source: ListenWise

Test Your Skills With "Cranky Uncle"!

Can you identify misinformation about science? Try the Cranky Uncle game and find out!  (Also available as a mobile app!)

"Cranky Uncle" logo, red letters on white background with closeup of "uncle" figure

Color cartoon image from "Cranky Uncle" game, bald mustached man with folded arms on red background.


Content and cartoons created by John Cook/University of Melbourne. Game developed by Goodbeast

Falsification of Online Stats & Reviews

It's not just credibility of news that we need to be aware of. Due to the nature of online advertising, there's big business in falsification of product ratings (Amazon is definitely a culprit) , website views and YouTube video views. A healthy dose of skepticism is your best defense.


Photo of black and white doc standing at a desk with front paws resting on an open laptop

Know Your Sources

"Think about the classes you took as a student. You learned the subject matter, but did you learn how to evaluate reliable sources of information in that field? Knowing what's reliable is essential to learning, and a key element of news literacy."  - John C. Silva, Director, The News Literacy Project

Blinded by Science? (Beware the "Expert")

"Science is a systematic method of inquiry, that makes testable predictions and updates itself based on the totality of evidence. Scientists by contrast are people, subject to human foibles and biases. Any perceived authority they may have stems not from their qualification, but from accurately reflecting the totality of evidence. If they fail to do so, their credentials, education, and prestige are irrelevant — they are not practicing science."

-Dr. David R. Grimes, Physicist 

Cartoon showing a newscaster reading a script: "Next up, we will discuss the topic with someone whose job is to be a well-researched and respected expert in the area...and in the interest of balance, we will also talk to an idiot."

Be a Critical Thinker

Info graphic for "Ultimate Cheatsheet for Critical Thinking" - scroll down for downloadable text version

Reality Check

How do we define reliable information in the "fake news" era? Librarian Heather Craven has developed a "reality-based"  framework for evaluating and using information based on the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) framework for information literacy instruction:

  • All information is not equal
  • Information has value in relation to real-world observation and documentable facts
  • Information creation is a process of conveying a message about reality
  • Information has value as it reflects reality
  • Research is inquiry into reality
  • Scholarship is a conversation about reality
  • Searching is a strategic exploration to learn about reality

Source: Heather Craven, County College of Morris (NJ)