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How to evaluate online sources?

4 Answer(s) Available
Answer # 1 #

fake news [feyk nooz] (noun) False information or propaganda published as if it were authentic news

social media [soh-shuh l mee-dee-uh] (noun) Websites and other online means of communication that are used by large groups of people to share information and to develop social and professional contacts

evaluation tool [ih-val-yoo-ey-shuh n tool] (noun) A process or procedure to judge or assess the trustworthiness of something

credibility [kred-uh-bil-i-tee] (noun) The trustworthiness or reliability of something

bias [bahy-uh s] (noun) prejudice; consciously or subconsciously favoring one person or point of view more than others

accuracy [ak-yer-uh-see] (noun) The condition or quality of being true, correct or exact; freedom from error or defect

reliability [ri-lahy-uh-bil-i-tee] (noun) The ability to be relied on or depended on, as for accuracy, honesty or achievement


A democracy thrives on an open flow of information and the public’s trust that the information they’re consuming is credible. In this lesson, students will locate and verify reliable sources of information. Working in small groups, students will discuss methods for evaluating the credibility of online sources and then use these strategies to review several websites or news stories.

1.    Open the lesson by asking students how they get their news. Social media? News apps? Television? Traditional newspapers? Then give them some historical perspective—before cable and the internet, there were only four television networks, and the only method for readers to comment on news was to write letters to the editor. Ask students how they think the expansion of ways we can receive, share and comment on news has affected society and people’s understanding of the world.

2.    Show students the CNN story “Fake News Stories Thriving on Social Media.” As a class, discuss the following questions:

3.    Analysis of online behavior in 2016 found that fake news stories are more likely to be shared than factual stories on social media. As a class, discuss the following questions:

4.    Organize students into think-pair-share groups and have them take the quick survey below in those groups. Ask a few volunteers to share how they answered each question and why.

5.    After you’ve discussed the survey results, broaden the conversation by asking students the following questions:

6.    Tell students that there are many tools for evaluating information for bias and accuracy. Most of these tools look at the source of the information (author, publisher), the purpose of the story, the story’s objectivity and accuracy, reliability and credibility of sources, and audience.

7.    Organize the class into groups of four to five students. Have each group review the Evaluating Sources for Reliability handout. Then assign each group a misleading website. Possible websites to assign can be found at Misinformation Directory.  Be sure to review each website to ensure appropriateness for your students.

8.    Give the groups time to complete the Evaluating Sources for Reliability handout.

9.    After students have finished, use the following questions to facilitate a group discussion about the effectiveness of the evaluation tools. Be sure to point out the importance of effectively evaluating the credibility of sources before sharing them.

Alignment to Common Core State Standards


Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.


Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.


Analyze various accounts of a subject told in different mediums (e.g., a person's life story in both print and multimedia), determining which details are emphasized in each account.


Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.


Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.


Determine two or more central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to provide a complex analysis; provide an objective summary of the text.

Swapnil Fonseca
Answer # 2 #
  • Authorship. If the author is not identified be wary.
  • Publisher.
  • Accuracy and objectivity.
  • Timeliness.
  • Footnotes and bibliographies.
  • Sponsorship.
Venkit Rawat
Answer # 3 #

Because so much information is now available online, it’s important to know how to navigate digital sources versus print sources. Today, almost every print source has a digital edition (e.g., ebooks, online newspapers), and some academic journals only publish digitally. However, despite the many credible digital sources available today, there are still many unreliable sources available on the internet. Below are some suggestions for evaluating digital texts and a breakdown of the different types of sources available online.

Search engine optimization (often abbreviated SEO) is a strategy used to increase unpaid views on a website from search engines. By using an algorithm, SEO works by locating keywords and sorting information for relevancy and accuracy. For example, if you were to search “How to change a flat tire” in a search engine, you would most likely get how-to videos and pages, rather than someone selling their car on Craigslist, because the algorithm sorts the webpages based on the keywords you input.

Different search engines may utilize SEO differently, which also means that, depending on what search engine you use, you might have different results appear first. For example, companies that are owned by Google will most likely appear first when searching for something on Google. However, if you used a different search engine, such as Yahoo or Bing, your results may differ.

Understanding SEO is important because it dictates the initial information you’re presented with when using a search engine for your research.

Different websites have different domain extensions, that is, the final string of letters following the period on a website’s domain name. Domain extensions help differentiate the type of websites and the different purposes they serve.

Below is a breakdown of the most common domain extensions:

While there is no universal rule for whether a website’s domain extension makes it credible, it’s important to know that .com, .org, and .net domain extensions can be purchased and used by anyone. However, the .edu domain extension is reserved only for educational institutions, and the .gov domain extension is only used by governmental institutions.

Determining a website’s credibility can be especially confusing for websites with a .org extension that appear to have a governmental or educational affiliation. For example, the website appears to contain official instructions for applying for a passport online; however, it is simply a PDF editing site. Because of the .org domain extension, it appears more credible.

On the other hand, some well-known organizations use a .com domain extension. Both National Geographicand TEDuse .com domain extension, despite the fact that they’re large organizations.

It’s important to not necessarily evaluate an online source simply based on its domain extension. As you navigate through different sources, you need to examine the authors and the website’s other credentials before making assumptions simply by the domain extension.

Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia, created by the Wikimedia Foundation. Like other encyclopedias, Wikipedia can provide valuable information about certain topics. However, unlike encyclopedias, Wikipedia pages can be edited by anyone, which means that sometimes the information stated is not reliable and is edited for the sake of making a joke (see example below).

In fact, even Wikipedia itself encourages its users to take caution when gathering information from its site. It states: “Users should be aware that not all articles are of encyclopedic quality from the start. Indeed, many articles start out by giving one—perhaps not particularly evenhanded—view of the subject, and it is after a long process of discussion, debate, and argument that they gradually take on a consensus form. Others may become caught up in a heavily unbalanced viewpoint and can take some time—months perhaps—to regain a better-balanced consensus” (see “Researching with Wikipedia”).

While it’s not encouraged to use Wikipedia as one of your main sources, Wikipedia can be used as a jumping-off point for other sources. At the bottom of most Wikipedia pages, you can find a list of sources that will take you to other pages (see image below).

Clickbait is a type of sensationalized advertisement that seeks to attract viewers through catchy or seemingly unbelievable headlines. Most sites that use clickbait use it to simply gain “clicks” on their site.

When looking for sources online, it’s important to recognize which article titles sound like clickbait. Most clickbait articles want to shock the reader, so be aware of words like surprising, alarming, and shockingin titles. Another form of clickbait is a page that challenges the viewer to a quiz or test. These will entice the reader by stating that the reader probably cannotanswer each question correctly.

Understanding which articles are clickbait helps you evaluate your sources for credibility. Because clickbait sources exist simply to promote webpages, they are not considered credible sources.

Social media is simply defined as any type of digital space that allows users to create content and share it with others in a social setting. A few of the most common social media platforms are Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, and Instagram. While social media is not regularly used as a source in research, sometimes you might use a YouTube video or a tweet from a well-known individual.

When evaluating social media sites, it’s important to know more about a user beyond their username. For example, if you were interested in examining how scientists use Twitter as a platform, you might find yourself quoting a tweet by Bill Nye or the physicist Brian Cox. Both of these individuals have blue checks next to their Twitter handles, which means the accounts are verified. However, you might not want to quote a tweet by someone with an anonymous name and a Twitter handle such as @iluvscience321.

Similarly, YouTube videos can either be posted by a large organization or a single user. If you are interested in using a YouTube video in your research, look at whether the publisher is a larger organization (such as TED or National Geographic) or a single user that only publishes under a username. While not all large organizations produce unbiased information, more well-known organizations will most likely provide more credible information.

In general, while you will probably not use a lot of social media in your research, if you do, try to locate the people or groups behind the usernames. After you identify the person or organization, you can find out more about them and determine their credibility.

Many people have personal websites, such as blogs, that are not associated with a larger group or organization. Blogs can range in subject, from seasonal fashion tips to discussing every one of Emily Dickinson’s poems. When evaluating a personal website, find out what you can about the author and their affiliations. Some personal websites exist solely to spread propaganda or other biased information.

Podcasts are becoming a much more popular digital medium today. Podcasts are essentially audio files that can be streamed on a computer or mobile device, like portable radio. They are usually part of a series or follow a theme.

Like YouTube videos, podcasts can be valuable resources if used correctly. While almost anyone can produce a podcast, and topics range from discussing tv shows or books like The Bachelor and Harry Potter, other podcasts give in-depth information about science, history, anthropology, and a wide variety of other topics. For example, podcasts like Stuff You Missed in History Class and Historium Unearthia provide information on often-overlooked historical events.

Like most sources, you should try to find out information about the author and cross-check the information in the podcast to see if you can find it elsewhere. Because anyone can produce a podcast, be aware that biased podcasts exist, and some might be used as propaganda.

It’s possible to find many news articles online, both from digital newspapers and websites that post news articles. When examining online news articles, find out what you can about the organization behind the articles. Different news outlets may have different agendas attached to their reporting. For example, some websites are known for being more left-wing or right-wing.

Asghar jgoqh
Answer # 4 #

What about the news? The Web is awash in, among many things, both real information and utter nonsense. Surfed on into or been directed to a news story? Check its Left/Center/Right rating here at AllSides. For lists of news sources ranging from left to right to satire, check out Media Bias/Fact Check. A checklist on how to identify fake news in ten questions (pdf). Science vs. pseudoscience? Here is another checklist.

Zene Nagashima
Fine Artist