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RHET:1030/1040/1060: Rhetoric (Writing & Reading, Speaking & Reading)

Fact-Checking Technique: Lateral Reading

One strategy that you can use is "lateral reading." 

  • 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.
  • Some good things to research are the publisher, author, and topic at hand.
  • 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.

To read more about "lateral reading" and other fact checking strategies and resources, visit Librarian Tim Arnold's "Evaluating Online Information" subject guide:

Below is a source that we aren't sure about. Let's do lateral reading on it and learn about it so we can figure out how much we can trust it!

  • Payne, Marissa. “Tuition Hikes May Put Dreams on Hold.” The Daily Iowan, 22 Aug. 2017, p. 1A.
  • First, DON'T READ THE ARTICLE. Let's do lateral reading on it first to figure out how much we can trust it.
  • To start the lateral reading, let's think of the 3 main things to find information about regarding the source: publisher, author, and topic
  • Let's start with googling the publisher: The Daily Iowan
  • Then, let's google the author of the article: Marissa Payne
  • Finally, let's google the topic: "tuition hike iowa 2017"
  • If we find enough clues that point to the article's trustworthiness (4-5), then we can more comfortably use the information in our essays/projects. If not, we can try to use only a bit of the information you can prove with outside sources, or look for another source altogether.

Lesson - Evaluating Sources for Credibility

Now that you've searched for your topic, it's important to stop and think about how to select the best resources from what you have found. Google has us trained to expect the best options at the top of the list of results, but you need to put more thought into selecting resources that meet your research needs. You create your own credibility as a researcher and scholar when you show that you know how to critically evaluate information sources.
Try to imagine someone (your instructor) asking you, "Why did you choose that source?" What would your answer be? If you said "It came up at the top of the list of results" would that be a good enough answer?  What if you could answer, "I chose that source because the author is a well-respected journalist who provided insight into this topic by interviewing people affected by..."...well, you get the idea! 

Evaluating Sources for Credibility by North Carolina State University Libraries

Remember to contact a librarian if you need help getting started with your research.

Tool - Evaulate Information Online with the CRAAP Test

The CRAAP Test

The tabs in this box represent some of the ways you can evaluate the information you come across as you do research online. You have to decide which information to read and trust, and these pointers can help. It's called the CRAAP test to help make it easy to remember:

C - Currency
R - Relevance/Coverage
A - Authority
A - Accuracy
P - Purpose

Be sure to think critically about the information provided:

  • What are the claims being made by the author(s)?
  • What evidence is provided to support those claims?
  • How does the information offered on this site relate to what is provided in other sources, both non-print and print? 
  • How could the information be verified? Is the information specific?
  • How is the information related to your research question?
  • Does the information address the complexities and significant factors of the topic?
  • Do you need to consider another point of view?
  • Is there another way to look at this question?
  • Does all of this make sense?


CURRENCY: The timeliness of the source and the information

  • When was the information posted?

  • When was it last revised?

  • Are links functional and up-to-date?

  • Is there evidence of newly added information or links?

  • Is the information still considered accurate? Has more recent research challenged this information?

  • Don’t exclude articles or information because of the publication date; instead think about the currency and relevance of the arguments presented.


RELEVANCE/COVERAGE: The importance and scope of the information

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?

  • Is the topic covered with sufficient depth and breadth? Is the information comprehensive enough for your needs? Are the complexities of your topic adequately addressed?

  • Could you find the same or better information in another source?

  • Is the information relevant to current scholarly discussions on the topic? Do scholars refer to this source?


AUTHORITY: The source of the information

  • Is the author/sponsor clearly identified? Is contact information easy to find?

  • What are the author’s credentials? Is the author knowledgeable in his/her field (based on employment, publications, sponsorship by reputable organizations).

  • Has the author published works in traditional formats? (Look up the authors in Google Scholar.)

  • Is the author affiliated with an organization? Does this organization appear to support or sponsor the page? (Google the authors and/or sponsoring organizations.)

  • What does the sponsoring site (e.g., and domain name (e.g. .com .edu .gov .org .net) reveal about the source of the information, if anything? 

ACCURACY: The reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content

  • Where does the information come from? Can you verify any of the information in independent sources or from your own knowledge?

  • Are the original sources of information listed?

  • What evidence is presented to support claims made?

  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?*

  • Does the language or tone seem objective and unbiased?

  • Is the information free of spelling, grammar, and typographical errors? 

PURPOSE: The reason the web site exists

  • Is the purpose of the page stated? Is the purpose to: inform? teach? entertain? enlighten? sell? persuade? Are possible biases clearly stated?
  • Is advertising content vs. informational content easily distinguishable?
  • Are editorials/opinion pieces clearly labeled?