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Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers: ...and other people who care about facts.

Author: Mike Caulfield  

An excerpt from Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers.

"This is an unabashedly practical guide for the student fact-checker. It supplements generic information literacy with the specific web-based techniques that can get you closer to the truth on the web more quickly.

This guide will show you how to use date filters to find the source of viral content, how to assess the reputation of a scientific journal in less than five seconds, and how to see if a tweet is really from the famous person you think it is or from an impostor. It’ll show you how to find pages that have been deleted, figure out who paid for the website you’re looking at, and whether the weather portrayed in that viral video actual matches the weather in that location on that day. It’ll show you how to check a Wikipedia page for recent vandalism and how to search the text of almost any printed book to verify a quote. It’ll teach you to parse URLs and scan search result blurbs so that you are more likely to get to the right result on the first click. And it’ll show you how to avoid baking confirmation bias into your search terms."

Evaluating Websites

Before you begin to use the Internet for your research, answer the following questions.

  1. Is the resource or information likely to be found on the Internet?
  2. Where is the resource or information located on the Internet? And when you find something, then answer:
  3. Is the resource or information accurate, objective, current, thorough, and reliable? Remember, there are over 533 million people on the Internet (Computer Industry Almanac), and any of them can add (mis)information to the Web!

There are a number of guides to help you determine the validity and usefulness of information. Here's one of our favorites: 

Quicklist for Websites

  • URL/Domain?
  • Who wrote the page? What authority does the author have?
  • Is there a date? Is it current, timely?
  • Is information cited? Do the citations exist?
  • Does the page have overall integrity and reliability as a source?
  • What's the bias?
  • Could the page or site be ironic, like a satire or a spoof?
  • If you have questions or reservations, how can you satisfy them?

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Agriculture, Life Science, and Scholarly Communication Librarian

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Inga Haugen
204 Newman Library