Skip to Main Content

Teaching and Learning



Stop and look more closely at information:

  • When you strongly agree with what's being presented
  • When you strongly disagree with what's being presented
  • When the information provokes an emotional reaction in you - good or bad
  • Before you share an article or the information in it
  • When you think "I'll share this 'just in case' it's true"

Red flag phrases:

  • "Let that sink in."
  • "The media won't report this."
  • "Make this go viral."
  • "Do your own research."
  • "There are no coincidences."

"Never promote any info or news unless it comes from a source you would trust to tell you which door the tiger is behind." - Peter Sagal


Before trying to evaluate whether or not the story is accurate, learn more about the source. Is it who you thought it was? What is their reputation? Do they have expertise/experience that makes you trust them? Are they trustworthy for this story? 

To do this, you want to go outside the source - and one of the best ways to do this is to use Wikipedia. 



"About Us" page vs. lateral searching

A lot of us were taught to use the "About Us" page in order to evaluate a source. Let's look at in order to discuss why that might not work so well. Look at their "About Us" page, and then compare what you find there to their Wikipedia page.

Your turn:

Look at the two sources below. What are your first impressions of each site? Now use the "just add Wikipedia" method to learn more about them. Does your impression of each site change? 

The author of this article is not a reporter, but is presented as an expert. Check out his expertise by doing a Wikipedia search on his name. Is he well qualified to write this article? Why or why not?

What do you think of this source? What about this author? 

Find Trusted Coverage

We're often more interested in the story itself rather than the source it's found in. When that's the case, it's best to look for trusted reporting or analysis. For particularly complex topics, you may want to look at multiple sources to determine what the consensus is.

To do this, you can search Google and/or a news aggregator to find other articles on the story. Be sure to practice click restraint! Scan through results before you decide which stories you want to click on. Not everything that comes up in a news search will be credible, and you also want to get a sense of the overall picture before you click through to a specific article.


► Fact-checking

If you're having a hard time finding conclusive coverage on a story, you may want to see if anyone has done a fact-check by adding the words [fact check] to your search. You can also look on a fact-checking site.

► Your turn

Look at the "Rat Dies After Gorging On Cash While Stuck In ATM"  story. Do a search and see if other sites are reporting this. If there are other sites, choose the one you feel is the best source for this story. If it does not appear to be true, explain how you came to that conclusion.

Next, look at the "#FauciLiedDogsDied: Fauci funds experimental drug testing on dogs" story. How would you go about determining the accuracy of the reporting in this story? 

Trace Claims and Quotes 

Very little of what we find online is original research or reporting, and as a story gets passed around and filtered through different writers important details can be left out and inaccuracies can find their way in. However, it is often possible to find the original reporting, research or image online. 

  • Read the article and see who/what they're quoting and citing. Search for or click through to original stories and see if the claims from original studies and stories are being accurately reported
  • Beware the sourceless story - if a post doesn't reference sources or provide links, you should be extra cautious

► Your Turn

Look at the following articles. How would you go about tracing the claims made in the articles and their headlines? 

► Tracing Images

Sometimes (many times!) claims or stories will come to you in the form of images. If you want to find trusted coverage of the issue, claim, or photo, you have a couple options:

  • You can search on some relevant text from the image, if, for example it is a meme or a supposed photograph of a sign
  • You can use reverse image search. The gif below shows you how to do this in Chrome. If reverse image search is difficult due to the device or browser you are using, you can usually get pretty far with the text search of Google Images.

► Your turn