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ENGL 1A Field

Evaluating

Evaluate

You can evaluate any source using the 5 W's:

  • Who: ...wrote it? Are they an expert?
  • What: ...is the purpose of this resource?
  • Where: ...was this information published? ...does the information come from?
  • When: ...was this published or last updated?
  • Why: ...is this resource useful? ...is this resource better than other ones?

This infographic from PCC Library explains how different sources are created and shared, including:

  • Number published per day
  • Whether a source is reviewed and fact-checked
  • The authors background and education
  • Whether they cite outside sources
  • How many words they use
  • How much background you need to understand a source

To find descriptions of different types of sources, click on image of icons for different sources:  tweets, tumblr blogs, Youtube videos, newspapers, popular magazines, professional journals, scholarly journals, academic books, and encyclopedias

Many college assignments require you to use peer reviewed articles, also known as scholarly or academic articles.  This video from NCSU Library explains what peer review means.

Fact-Checking Strategies

SIFT icon for "Investigate" shows a magnifying glassInvestigate the Source

You don’t have to do a three-hour investigation into a source before you engage with it. But knowing the expertise and agenda of the person who created the source is crucial to your interpretation of the information provided.

When investigating a source, fact-checkers read “laterally” across many websites, rather than digging deep (reading “vertically”) into the one source they are evaluating. That is, they don’t spend much time on the source itself, but instead they quickly get off the page and see what others have said about the source. For example, look up the publisher on Wikipedia, to quickly check for credibility.

Watch the short (2:44) video below for a demonstration of this strategy.

SIFT icon for Trace Claims shows 3 dots narrowing down to one dot

Trace Claims, Quotes, and Media to the Original Context

Much of what we find on the internet has been stripped of context. People who re-report stories get things wrong by mistake, or, in some cases, they are intentionally misleading. When you trace claims, quotes, and media back to the original source you can see it in its original context and get a sense of whether the version you saw was accurately presented.

Please watch the following video (1:33) that discusses re-reporting vs. original reporting and demonstrates a quick tip: going “upstream” to find the original reporting source.

SIFT icon for Find Better Coverage shows a check markFind Better Coverage

What if the source you find is low-quality, or you can’t determine if it is reliable or not? Perhaps  you don’t really care about the source—you care about the claim that source is making.  A common example of this is a meme you might encounter on social media. The random person or group who posted the meme may be less important than the quote or claim the meme makes.

Your best strategy in this case might be to find a better source, to look for other coverage that includes trusted reporting or analysis on the claim. Rather than relying on the source that you initially found, you can trade up for a higher quality source.

Please watch this video (4:10) that demonstrates this strategy and notes how fact-checkers build a library of trusted sources they can rely on to provide better coverage.