It takes four moves and a habit

Michael Caulfield’s approach to information literacy is simple. He argues that we should teach students to be fact checkers instead of rhetoricians. In rhetoric, readers spend a great deal of time reading closely, analyzing syntax and word choice for tone. Fact checking, though, is quick, involving only “four moves and a habit,” Caulfield, director of networked and blended learning at WSU Vancouver, says. A recent Stanford University study supports the idea that a fact-checking strategy is superior to close reading.

Look for previous work. When fact-checking a particular claim, the quickest, simplest thing to do is to see if someone has already done the work for you. Has the claim already been fact-checked? Check Snopes, Wikipedia, or another reputable site.

Illustration of paper with question mark

Go upstream to the source. Almost all web content is reposted from another site. Find the original and evaluate it.

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Read laterally. Don’t dig deep into a single site, read across many sites to see what others have to say about the source you’re reading.

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Circle back. If you get lost, hit a roadblock, or otherwise start chasing your tail, stop and start over.

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And the habit? If you feel strong emotion when you read a social media post, stop. As WSU graduate student and social media researcher Rebecca Donaway says, content creators are trying to appeal to our baser emotions, so if that’s what you’re feeling, don’t give them the win.


Read more about fake news inTruth or consequences.”