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Evaluating Information Online

This guide will help you learn to evaluate information found online quickly, effectively, and easily.

Introduction to Evaluating Information Online

When it comes to information you find online:

  • Do you evaluate what you find?
  • Are you familiar with current methods of evaluation (that don't include checklists)?
  • Can you distinguish between reliable and unreliable sources, and treat them differently?
  • Do you know what to do when faced with an unfamiliar website?

If you answered "No" to any of these questions, this guide will help you get up to speed on evaluating online information. Step away from clunky, outdated methods like checklists and towards the methods used by professional fact-checkers. Read through the pages of this guide and try the examples to build your skills and become a more capable, more confident, more discerning consumer of information.

Why Bother?

Watch the following video by the Stanford History Education Group for a quick overview of the research underpinning this guide.

You can find the full report of the research online here from Stanford University, but to summarize, professional fact-checkers were able to quickly and correctly distinguish between a legitimate and credible source or information and another, noncredible organization pretending to be trustworthy. Most of the history professors and Standford University students, however, were unable to correctly make these identifications when faced with the same challenges. The methods like checklists that they knew, if they knew any evaluation methods at all, were insufficient.

 

The researchers isolated the methods the fact-checkers used, lateral reading and click restraint; they are presented in this guide for you to learn and incorporate into your own practice. More research on this subject by the Stanford History Education Group and other can be found here, on the SHEG Civic Online Reasoning website. Continue on to the next page in this guide to learn about how to use these fact-checking techniques yourself.