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Research 101 (M. Slobodinsky, Library Workshop)

Lateral Reading

The Truth is Out There...

Do What Fact Checkers Do

"Historians and students often.. read vertically, staying within a website to evaluate its reliability. In contrast, fact checkers read laterally, leaving a site after a quick scan and opening up new browser tabs in order to judge the credibility of the original siteCompared to the other groups, fact checkers arrived at more warranted conclusions in a fraction of the time" (Wineburg & McGrew, 2018)

Wineburg, Sam and mcgrew, sarah, Lateral Reading: Reading Less and Learning More When Evaluating Digital Information (October 6, 2017). Stanford History Education Group Working Paper No. 2017-A1 . Available at SSRN: or 

Evaluation Internet Information

4 Moves & A Habit

from Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers by Michael A. Caulfield

  1. Check for previous work: Look around to see whether someone else has already fact-checked the claim or provided a synthesis of research. [Some places to look: WikipediaSnopesPolitifact and NPR's Fact Check website.]
  2. Go upstream to the source: Most Web content is not original. Get to the original source to understand the trustworthiness of the information. Is it a reputable scientific journal? Is there an original news media account from a well-known outlet? If that is not immediately apparent, then move to step 3.
  3. Read laterally: Once you get to the source of a claim, read what other people say about the source (publication, author, etc.). The truth is in the network.
  4. Circle back: If you get lost or hit dead ends or find yourself going down a rabbit hole, back up and start over.


The Habit

Check Your Emotions

"The habit is simple. When you feel strong emotion–happiness, anger, pride, vindication–and that emotion pushes you to share a “fact” with others, STOP. Above all, these are the claims that you must fact-check.

Why? Because you’re already likely to check things you know are important to get right, and you’re predisposed to analyze things that put you an intellectual frame of mind. But things that make you angry or overjoyed, well… our record as humans are not good with these things".

Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers by Michael A. Caulfield