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Evaluating Online Resources

Lateral Reading

Lateral reading is a process for vetting information where you check your source of information using a third party. It's an act of verifying what you're reading as you read it by going beyond the current page..

There are three key questions you need to ask as you evaluate online information:

  1. Who is behind the information?
  2. What is their evidence for their claims?
  3. What do other sources say about the organization and their claims?

Lateral reading helps you determine an author’s credibility, intent, and biases. To do this, search for articles on the same topic by other writers (to see how they are covering it), and search for other articles by the same author. Look into the author's background and education to determine if they are an expert in the field.

Lateral reading will also help determine the source's credibility and biases. Do a search on the organization, browse the Wikipedia page for context, and read about its founding.

Consider the following questions:

  • Who funds or sponsors the site where the original piece was published? What do other authoritative sources have to say about that site?
  • When you do a search on the topic of the original piece, are the initial results from fact-checking organizations?
  • Have questions been raised about other articles the author has written?
  • Does what you’re finding elsewhere contradict the original piece?
  • Are credible news outlets reporting on (or perhaps more importantly not reporting on) what you’re reading?

News Literacy Project. (n.d.). Expand your view with lateral reading.

For additional information, check out this ebook, Web Literacy for Student Fact Checkers...and other people who care about facts by Mike Caulfield