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Evaluating News Stories: Fake or real?

Fake news is a complex and growing problem for anyone doing research. This guide accompanies Dr. Johnson's COM 10 class

Is Fake News really a problem? What harm could it do?

Many people really believe whatever they read!

In the chart below, the number of people that believe stories from questionable news sources is on par with the percentage of people who believe news from reliable news sources. a fake news story can do a lot of damage, especially in social media and on the internet where it can be accessed over and over for many years to come.

How to fact-check a source

When you discover a source on the internet that you wish to use, you need to look at the source of the article.

A.  Is your source considered reliable?

Examples of some reliable sources:  

  • Library Databases: These have been verified by the vendors that distribute the databases with input from librarians and experts in the discipline
  • Is it a peer-reviewed journal?  Put the title of the journal in the Journal Title Tab on the library Search box.

If the source is not in the library databases, you need to do more detective work....

  • Does the website appear on Zimdar's list of Questionable sources?
  1. Does the article have references?  If it does, opy the title of the article, and paste it into the library's OMNISEARCH box.  OMNISEARCH searches only the library databases.  Remember those sources have all been evaluated for validity and accurate information.
  2. If you find the source, in a library database, look at it.  Does the contents of the abstract of the article, or the article itself contain the same information and conclusions as the article that cited them?  Or was the citation in the bibliography put there so the author appears to be believable?
  3. If you cannot find a reference, try to verify the truth of the author's information in at least two reliable sources through a search engine.  Use Otera's diagram of conservative and progressive media sources to make sure you are selecting good sources.  Try to make sure the sources are original and that you are not looking at copies, re-tweets, or likes that do not list the original source.

If you are still uncertain -- best to move on to another article or source.

Verifying any information in today's online environment is not a quick or easy task.


Stanford Study from 2016

Stanford University finished a study in 2016 to find if students in K-16 could critically evaluate what they saw online.  Results were not good.  For example, 80% of college students were unable to recognize bias in articles they read.