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Media Literacy, or How to Spot Fake News: Evaluating Sources

This guide provides information and tips on examining news critically, including how to spot fake news and how to fact check and evaluate sources.

Evaluating Sources

Put everything you read, and especially everything you share, through the CRAAP test!

Currency - Can you find when the information was published and is it current?

Reliability - Is the article supported by evidence, with links, footnotes, or sources cited? Can it be confirmed by other sources? Check other sources to see what they are saying.  The Associated Press is a good traditional news outlet to check.

Authority - Who wrote the information and what are their credentials, such as college degrees or work experience? Are they an expert in their field? 

Accuracy - Is the information peer-reviewed or fact checked? Does it seem unbiased and free of emotion? Are there spelling, grammar, or typographical errors?

Purpose - Why does this information exist - is it to inform or teach, or is it to sell or persuade?  Is it just entertaining? Do the authors make their intentions clear? Is the information fact, opinion, or propaganda? Does it appear objective and impartial, or is there a political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal bias?

Some other great ways to evaluate sources and avoid fake news:

  • Check the headline.  If it says something like, "You won't believe what happened next!" it's clickbait.
  • Check the URL domain. The best websites are .edu for educational institutions, .gov for government, and .org for non-profit organizations.  .Com websites require extra vetting. Fake websites often end with .io, .co, or something else that looks unfamilar.
  • Identify what you are reading.  Is it a news report? An opinion piece? A blog?
  • Use the fact-checker sites recommended on this page.
  • Steven Inskeep of NPR has a helpful finder's guide of facts with suggestions for vetting your sources. Here's a great sample:
    • Does the story attack a generic enemy? Vague denunciations of "Washington" or "the media" or "Trump supporters" or "the left" should be marked down 99 percent. Good reporting doesn't make these kinds of generalizations and is specific about who is making a claim about what.
  • Still unsure? Ask a librarian

IFLA infographic

Video

This brief video from NC State Library gives an overview of how to evaluate sources.

Fact-Checker Sites