Evaluating Resources and Fake News

Information is constantly streaming across our smartphones and computers through social media, websites, and databases. If you are like most college students, then you receive lots of messages, texts, and links every day. You probably also consult databases through the CSN Libraries website from time to time as part of your coursework.

It’s important to know how to retrieve reliable information. It’s also important to know how dependable that information really is — and not just for your assignments but in making other life decisions as well.

Fake, false, or misleading news is sometimes created to influence emotion and opinion, or simply to generate web traffic. Some websites exist for the sole purpose of misleading readers and stirring up controversy. Adding to the fray, some politicians and newsmakers now label news reports they simply do not like as fake news.

The truth is not based on biased reporting. Real research is not a matter of opinion but of fact. Do not be deceived. Here are some things you can do:

  • Check the quality and source of any evidence presented in the article. Ask yourself whether the evidence presented is used fairly, and whether there is enough analysis to support the conclusion.
  • Check the author’s credentials if possible, and do what you can to evaluate the publisher’s reputation.
  • Understand your source and its reputation in the field. Talk to your instructor or ask/ chat with a librarian to get detailed information on a journal and its reputation in a field.
  • Look for bias. Everyone has some bias, but ask yourself: Does the author’s bias limit the validity of the information? Check the publisher’s mission statement. Check the author’s affiliation.
  • Check for supporting information. Fake news articles often stand alone. Either the information can’t be verified or it’s often contradicted. Use fact-checking services like Politifact.

If you have questions on evaluating sources, ask a librarian or your instructor for assistance – or visit the Evaluation Module in Research 101 on the library’s website.