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Fake News: Checking Articles

Tips and resources to sharpen your critical thinking skills when it comes to facts and false information.

STEP 1: Check Credentials. Who is the author?

Who is giving you information? 

Step 1. Learn about the author. What makes this person an expert? What is the person's education? Job? Research the author with a Google search and find the author's background.  Additionally, some databases, like the one seen below, will let you click on the author's name to see other works attributed to that author.

 

STEP 2: Check Credentials. Where Was This Published?

Where did you find this information?  

Step 2. Learn about the source of the information. Some sources are more accurate than others. Generally, an academic journal is more trustworthy than a website because journal articles are often read by subject experts before they are published.  Many databases will let you click on the publication title to see more information about the source, including if it is peer reviewed. The below source is not peer reviewed.

   

STEP 3: Check Sources. Where Does the Author Get Information?

Who is the author quoting?

Step 3. A lot of information uses facts in order to convince you of something. Where is the author finding these facts? Does the author give sources for the information being used to support the argument? Does the author provide a citation or bibliography? Always verify any listed sources by searching for them.

STEP 4: Check Dates. How Old is This Information?

When was this information published? 

Step 4. Consider the date of publication. When doing research you may want historical or older information on a topic, but if you want current ideas you will need recent information. In addition, some information expires, especially in subjects that are constantly evolving, such as technology and medicine. How old is the information being offered to you? Be sure to check the dates of both the article and its sources.

STEP 5: Check for Bias. Why Does the Author Want to Convince You?

What does the author get by persuading you with this information? 

Step 5. Many authors write to persuade, and the information will be an argument trying to get the reader to agree to the author's main points. Persuasion is a style of writing, and does not indicate that an author is lying or trying to manipulate the reader. To know if the information is fake or biased the reader can evaluate the author's motivation. Does it seem like the author wants you to believe because of more than just the facts?  Does the author benefit somehow by you accepting the information?

Read information carefully and look for instances of the author wanting you to believe for reasons other than the facts.

Example:

The following passage shows how the author provides an unbiased look at the potential outcomes of the controversial decision to increase the minimum wage by presenting theoretical consequences from both sides, and letting the reader decide for him or herself rather than forcing a conclusion onto the reader.

How to Spot Fake News