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CMP-120 (Chong, Spring 2023)

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 

Evaluating a Website for Credibility


  • Is there reasoning for the purpose of this information? Is it to inform/explain? Sell a product? To persuade?

  • Who is the audience for this website? Children? General public? University students? Scholars?



  • Is the name of an author and/or contact information for this person present anywhere on the website? 

  • Is this person qualified to be writing about this topic? Can you find any credentials on this person?

  • Is this person affiliated with an organization or university?

  • Has this person been cited by others?



  • Can you find any sort of date/information on when this page was last updated?

  • Is it recent research on what you are looking for? 


Domain names

  • .edu - Education-related websites, generally university-level (US)

    • - UK universities, - New Zealand universities, etc.

  • .gov - Government-related websites

  • .org - Organizational websites

  • .com - Commercial websites

  • .net - Network websites (Originally! Now more or less interchangeable with .com)


Objectivity, Reliability and Credibility

  • Is the information found fact, or the opinion of the author?

  • Is there any biased language? Does it promote a biased view on the topic?

  • Are the tone and style professional?

  • Is the information backed up by other sources/does it seem to be well-researched?


  • Is the information written well? 

  • Are there grammar errors?

  • Are there spelling errors?

  • Has the information been peer-reviewed?

  • Is there a bibliography of sources?

  • Can you find these sources to verify the information found on this page?

  • Is the information relevant to the subject area/topic?



  • What sort of sources are linked, if any?

  • Do the links on the page still work?


Does it look professional?

  • Websites with credible information often look more professional. However, that is not always the case! Some websites seem to be stuck in previous decades, so this one is not going to be the most important indicator.

  • Is it easy to use?