Skip to main content


TRIO SSS: Evaluation and Credibility

This guide contains resources specific to the needs of TRIO students enrolled in the Steps to Success TRIO curriculum.


There is no one right way to evaluate information to determine whether or not it is credible for use in your academic research projects. 

First off, Context is key. In some cases, it might make sense to use popular sources to support your work. In other cases, your topic or question might require scholarly articles. Always default to your assignment requirements -- if the assignment sheet says you need scholarly articles, you should probably get those scholarly articles. 

Information is everywhere and misinformation is prevalent. As librarians who are trained and educated to handle information, we're here to help. This guide is designed to help you understand how misrepresentation of information or "Fake News" as many call it, can impact your lives and others. In this guide you will learn simple strategies to help you spot "Fake" or falsified information. 

Fake news has been around for a very long time even before the internet. When you think about "Fake News" in today's world, what comes to mind? Did you know that propaganda is also fake news made to sway the public about a particular person or group of people? Can you spot the difference between satire and actual "fake news"? The drop down tab "Types of Fake News" will help you identify several instances of misinformation or "fake news" including satire, manipulation, fabrication, and misleading information.

If you have trouble deciding whether or not an article or information is trustworthy, ask your librarian!

Simple steps to fact check a source

Try reading laterally or outside the original source:

  • When you find information from a source you haven't encountered before, do some research about the source BEFORE deciding whether you should listen to anything the source has to say.
  • Try to determine a consensus about the source by researching it using Google and Wikipedia.
  • When conducting research on Wikipedia, read the citations at the bottom of the page and open the links to those citations.
  • Read a minimum of 4 to 5 new sources to see what they have to say about your original source.
  • If you can't find 4 or 5 sources about something, that is information in itself. It means you're probably looking at a site that doesn't have an established reputation. Proceed with caution.
  • Once you determine a consensus from these new sources, make a judgment call about the original source's trustworthiness.
This information can be found on Librarian Tim Arnold's guide on Fake News: 

How to Spot Fake News

Video: Evaluating Sources for Credibility

This short video from NCSU Libraries sums up the main concepts and ways to identify credible sources.

Fact-checking Resources

Test your knowledge!

Fact-check the meme!

Image result for democrat memes

1. Check for any names or websites associated with the meme. This comes from Occupy Democrats, which has been know to show misleading, fake, or exaggerated partisan content favoring Democrats.

2. Identify words, pictures, text placement, and main parts of the meme. There are images of Mitch McConnell, a US Senator and Paul Ryan, House of Representatives Speaker, both whom are Republicans, and a picture of crying baby accompanied with a mosquito.

3. Look for emotion or strong wording to evoke a specific emotion. The words "Share If You're Outraged" are designed to evoke a specific response from the reader and turn your anger to a specific group; in this case, Republicans.

4. Do some research. You may have to research what the Zika virus is and confirm that there were four Floridians who were infected with Zika. According to the Center for Disease Control, Zika virus is contracted by a species of infected mosquito that can cause birth defects passed from a pregnant mother to her baby. One of the most common resulting birth defect is a condition called Microcephaly

5. Determine context. According to this meme, four Floridians became infected with the virus. Zika was declared an international health emergency by the World Health Organization in early 2016, when Florida officials reported the first outbreak in the US. An August 2016 article in the British Medial Journal (BMJ) confirmed four people in Florida were infected with the virus. Around the same time in 2016, Congress was jointly working on a plan to provide emergency funding for the Zika virus. The funding was delayed due to a disagreement between Democrats and Republicans in Congress on language supported by Republicans that would bar funding for Planned Parenthood. The final decision to pass the measure for funding came in September 2016

In conclusion, this meme is misleading. Republicans didn't exactly vote down the bill, but was delayed by Congress, including Democrats due to disagreement over funding. The meme is also designed to get Democratic supporters upset and riled up. The connection between the two parts of the meme; infected Floridians and Republicans, namely McConnell and Ryan, denying funding is misrepresentative showing that one happened due to the other. People would have been infected regardless of funding and were still in fact, cared for, despite Congress' decision.