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COMM 220: Communication and Social Relationships (O'Connor)

This guide is dedicated to the Relationships in Pop Culture and Scholarship Group Annotated Bib/Research/Poster Assignment.

Fact Checking Strategies

Trying to figure out if something you see on the Internet is quality or not? Try: 

The SIFT Method

  1. Stop
    1. Do you recognize the website?
    2. What was your purpose in getting to this webpage?
  2. Investigate the Source
    1. Where’s the content from? Webpage, webpage’s other coverage, author, author’s affiliation, etc.
    2. Is the caption misleading?
  3. Find Better Coverage
    1. Can you find a more trusted source for the same information?
    2. Is there a consensus for the information provided?
  4. Trace Claims, Quotes, and Media to the Original Context
    1. Can you trace back the information to its original source?
    2. Whose research/reporting is this article written on?

 

For more information about the SIFT method you can read the free, short ebook: Web Literacy for Student Fact Checkers by Mike Caulfield (Washington State University).

The CRAAP test is a basic set of evaluation criteria and questions that you can apply to any source that you find.  CRAAP is an acronym for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose.

Currency: the timeliness of the information.

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Is the information current or outdated for your topic?
  • Are the links still functional and up to date?   

Relevance: the importance of the information for your needs.

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?

Authority: the source of the information.

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • Are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?  If so, what are they?
  • What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?
    •  examples:
      • .com (commercial)
      • .edu (educational)
      • .gov (U.S. government)
      • .org (nonprofit organization)
      • .net (network)

Accuracy: the reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content.

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been peer-reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem biased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?

Purpose: the reason the information exists.

  • What is the purpose of the information? to inform? teach? sell? entertain? persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact? opinion? propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?

Bias in the News

In a time when elected public officials brazenly lie and foment rhetoric about fake news, it is more important than ever before to be able to discern truth from fiction.  Amanda Taub of the New York Times writes that "the fake-news phenomenon is not the result of personal failings.  And it is not limited to one end of the political spectrum.  Rather, Americans’ deep bias against the political party they oppose is so strong that it acts as a kind of partisan prism for facts, refracting a different reality to Republicans than to Democrats.  Partisan refraction has fueled the rise of fake news, according to researchers who study the phenomenon.  But the repercussions go far beyond stories shared on Facebook and Reddit, affecting Americans’ faith in government — and the government’s ability to function."  Once you are aware of the problem and know what to look for, you are no longer a part of the problem — you can be part of the solution toward building a more equitable, truth-based society.

  • It is important to realize, no news agency can be completely unbiased. Bias technically starts when journalists decide what stories to report on and it is impossible for a journalist to report on every news story that happens in the world every day. Instead, look for agenda.
    • Is a news agency trying to persuade me to one political cause or the other?
    • Convince me to vote a certain way?
    • Make me spend my money on a certain thing or view a company more favorably?  
       
  • Many news agencies run opinion pieces (i.e. stories that may have some facts, but is mostly just the author giving their opinion). A good news agency will mark them. Usually with a bold and large "Opinion" somewhere on the page. If you do not see clearly marked opinion pieces, this is a red flag! 
     
  • Remember, just because a news story does not match your worldview does not mean it is "fake news." Consider the news source and their agenda before you decide if it's trustworthy or "real" or not.  
     
  • It's not necessarily a bad thing to consume news with an agenda. But think of it like nutrition: you need a balance of foods to stay healthy. Keep a balance of news without an agenda and news with an agenda to keep a healthy mind.
    • Treat news with an agenda the same way you would treat an opinion piece: there may be some truth in it, but the writer is trying to persuade you to do something or feel a certain way. 
    • If you only consume news with an agenda that matches your worldview, you risk not being able to see or understand other people.

Below are some resources that can help you sort through bias that you might find in the news as well as some sources that are generally considered to be politically neutral and factually accurate:

Bias in Tech / on the Web

With social media like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, etc. where you can curate the information you see, it's easy to get yourself in a media filter bubble and only see information that only reinforces your established worldview.

Source: https://images.app.goo.gl/Ggt1So4cLPUTGTrc8

Companies like Google also have sophisticated algorithms to give you search results tailored to what they think you want (and because their business model is based on advertising revenue and monetizing certain keywords): if you run the same search while logged in to a Google account, while logged out, on a campus computer, on your personal computer, or on someone else's computer while they are logged in or not, etc. you may find yourself getting different results.  It can still be an excellent resource (especially since you won't always have access to college/university resources and are likely to rely on web tools like this in the future for your research needs), but it's worth being aware of this.  You might also use the Google Advanced Search which can add a number of useful tricks to your searches!