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Evaluating Sources

This guide will help you in learning how to evaluate the sources you find.

Lateral Research

In the era of mis- and dis-information, we need to learn different ways in order to evaluate information we learn on the web. One way to evaluate information is to use techniques that professional fact-checkers use, called "lateral research". 

Instead of using your time investigating every page on a website to determine whether or not it is both credible and authoritative, lateral research asks you to look what others have said about the webpage. Why waste your time poking around a website that will describe itself as trustworthy and credible, even it is publishing falsities? So, use Google or another of your favorite online search engines to read what other, authoritative voices have said about the site.

For example, if you come across a news site you have never heard of, copy/paste the name of the site into a Google search and browse the results. You'll act as a detective, piecing together clues about a site to get a clearer picture of what the site is really about. You can:

  • Google the name of the site to see if other, authoritative sites have commented about it
  • Google the name of the author of the piece to see what else they have written
  • Google the name of the author of the piece to see what others have mentioned about them
  • Is there a Wikipedia entry or another website that explains the site in neutral terms? For example, is the website advocating for something or for you to do something? Is the website advocating you not do something? Why or why not? 

Once you have a better understanding of the site, you can decide if it is a website you'd use in your paper or project.

For a quick overview of lateral research, watch the two short videos below:

Lateral Research - Investigating the Source