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Fake News & Media Bias: How to Evaluate Claims

Evaluating Claims

When you come across information online, you must evaluate the information for accuracy because it is very easy to fabricate information and post it online. It's also very easy to make this fake information look professional and credible. You may have been introduced to the CRAAP test (CRAAP stands for currency, relevance, accuracy, authority, and purpose). This is a good place to start because it provides you with some clues to look for; however, you must go beyond CRAAP. When you find a clue such as "authority," engage in lateral reading (described below) and learn more about this author to see if the author really does have the credentials to write on this topic. Even if you determine the source is credible, you also need to evaluate the logic of the claims to be sure the evidence presented is free from logical fallacies (incorrect conclusions based on presentation of the evidence). The information below will help you go beyond CRAAP to determine whether something is fake or factual and free of logical fallacies. Even when you come across legitimate, factual news, it may be flawed because it comes from a biased source. Checking bias is also covered in this guide.

Go Back to the Original (Primary) Source

When you come across a news article that describes a report, the news article is a secondary source because it is not the original data or source. Instead, it interprets the original (primary) data or source. You should to go back to the original (primary) source of information because this secondary source's interpretation could be incorrect, or it may be conveyed using language that clouds the original report's findings. This is true even with credible sources that are written in good faith because the journalist writing the health news may not always have a good grasp of the concepts being relayed; these journalists may not have a health background. If you're reading your news online, look for hyperlinks to the primary source. If the online source doesn't provide hyperlinks or if you're reading the news in print, there should be at least partial citation information; credible news outlets will provide you with one or both of these methods to at least get to the abstract of the primary source. If these elements are missing, that could be a sign that this information is fake. You should search for any clues to help you get to the original, primary source. 

Lateral Reading

Fact Checking Websites

It is important to develop your own fact checking skills, however there are also websites where people fact check claims. There are more claims than fact checkers, so you may come across a claim before it has been fact checked on these sites.


Criteria for Evaluation

Recognize Logical Fallacies