Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Fake News or Disinformation: Analyze Your Sources

Learn how to tell the difference between real and fake news.

5 W's

Ask Yourself: Who, What, When, Where, Why?

News reporters aren't the only ones who need to ask these questions.  They are good evaluative questions no matter who you are.

Who? Authority

  • Who is the author? Individual or organization
  • What is his/her qualifications? Occupation, education, years of experience, something else
  • Who does he/she work for?
  • Is there contact information?
  • Is there an About Us?

What? Accuracy

  • What is the purpose of the content?
  • Are there sources listed?
  • Are there editors or fact checkers?
  • Is it peer-reviewed or refereed?
  • Are there grammar or spelling errors?

When? Currency

  • When was it written or published?
  • Do you need the information to be up to date?
  • What has changed in your field since the publication date?
  • For Websites look at:
    • When was the site created?
    • Is there a last updated date?
    • Are there "dead" links?

Where? Publisher

  • Where was it published?
  • Have you heard of the publisher before?
  • Does the publisher take responsibility for the content?
  • Is it a peer-reviewed or refereed source?
  • Was it self-published?
  • For Websites look at:
    • What is the domain?
      • .com = commercial site
      • .gov = U.S. government
      • .org = nonprofit orgranization
      • .edu = educational
    • Is it a stable site?  Will it be there tomorrow?
    • Does it get updated?
  • What does the place of publication tell you about the intended audience?

Why? Purpose & Point of View

  • Why does the source exist?
  • Is there a mission statement?
  • Does it contain mostly opinions or facts?
  • Is there bias in the information or opinions included?
  • Is it selling? Promoting? Ranting?
  • Is advertising clearly separated and marked?
  • Is it trying to sway you to a particular point of view?

How? Double-checking

  • Find another source to verify what you've found.

Lateral Reading

  • Open up another browser tab
  • Look for reviews of the site the information is on. 
  • Check for further information on the author
    • Do they have a Linkedin Profile?
    • Do they have a Google Scholar Profile?
    • Check the directory of where they say they work to see if they are listed
    • Have they written anything else or is this a one-time thing?
  • Does anyplace else link to this information?  A link to a site is often viewed as a recommendation of that site.  Do a google link:URL search to find who links to the site.

Browser Plug-ins

These browser plug-ins will help alert you to fake news as you use the web.

Test Yourself

How good are you at identifying fake news?  Here's a game from the American University Game Lab.  It presents an article, and you must determine if it's real or fake.  It gives you an option to see the source before deciding.  Ready to try?

 

Should You Share?

Play a game that tests your sense of whether information is legit and should be shared or questionable and should be skipped.

Fakey