When students are looking for information on the web, there are strategies they can use to help them determine whether the information is accurate.
- Previous verification – Check to see if someone has already fact-checked the accuracy of information.
- Locate the source – Find the original source of the information or claim to determine its trustworthiness.
- Credibility of source – Verify the credentials of the author or creator of the source and read what others have said or written about the source.
- Start over – If you are not able to find sources to substantiate the information or claim, look for another source.
If any of these strategies prove to be successful in verifying the content, your work is done.
When you encounter a claim that you want to verify, your first step is to see if any fact-checking sites like Politifact, or Snopes, or even Wikipedia have already verified or disputed the claim. If this proves to be a dead-end, your next step is to locate the source of the information.
If the claim is about research, try to locate the journal it originally appeared in. If the claim is about an event, look for the news publication in which the event was originally reported. If the source of information is reputable, such as the journal Science or the newspaper the New York Times, you can stop here. If not, your next strategy is to find out what others have written about the source.
Look for information about the author of the claim, as well as any credentials and affiliations that they may have. Are there any reviews or commentaries about the information?
If you find that the source of the information is not trustworthy, or cannot be verified at all, then your last strategy is to circle back, and start the process over again. Try finding an alternate source that can be verified.