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Evaluating Information Sources

Learn how to evaluate and critique information sources.

What is Cross Referencing, or Lateral Reading?

What is it?

"The technique, modeled after source-evaluation strategies used by fact-checkers who work for news organizations and outlets, is lateral reading—that is..."investigating... the site itself.” The MLA Guide to Digital Literacy suggests calling it “cross-referencing” a source" (The MLA Style Center)

Why should I cross reference?

"One reason digital sources are difficult to evaluate for bias is that the bias is often intentionally hidden in a practice called astroturfing: masking the true intent (be it political, religious, commercial, or social) of the organization by making it appear more widespread and organic in origin."

Follow these steps

"Find an article by an organization with a clear bias but one that does not identify its stance, such as “Bullying at School: Never Acceptable,” by the American College of Pediatricians, which the SHEG used in its lateral reading study.

  • Research the website’s author or organization. Identify any possible bias or messaging associated with the organization.
  • Identify keywords in your source and complete your own web search of that topic. Compare the results with your original source.
  • Find a quotation attributed to specific people. Conduct your own research to verify the quotation and confirm it has not been taken out of context or misconstrued.
  • Look for hyperlinks or citations to other organizations or sources. Conduct an online search of those organizations to determine any possible bias or messaging associated with the organization or sources.
  • Look for any advertisements or sponsored content on the website. Conduct a web search to identify possible bias." (The MLA Style Center)

Resources for Instructors