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Before you decide to use a source for your project, you need to evaluate it. Consider what you're using the source for (your context), and then determine if it's accurate, well-reasoned, and authoritative. The links and resources below give you some tools and exercises for evaluating a source.

Spotlight on: Context

Instead of thinking about a source as "good" or "bad," consider what you're using it for. What questions are you trying to answer? What kind of information are you looking for? A source might be "good" in one context, but "bad" in another.

For example, if you want to know what led to the Flint, MI water crisis, news articles or a report co-written by the doctor who uncovered the lead contamination would be good sources for that kind of background information. You might not find reliable facts in personal testimonials from Flint residents, but that doesn't make them "bad" sources; testimonials, interviews, and other personal narratives tell you about the experiences of the people who are living through the crisis, and illuminate events in ways that other kinds of sources won't.

It's important to consider what kind of information you need so that you can choose the best sources. You will most likely need a mix of different kinds of sources.

Fact Checking: 4 Moves and a Habit

Infographic describing the fact checking process. Detailed description below image.

Image description:

Four Moves & a Habit
from Web Literacy for Student Fact Checkers

The Habit: Check Your Emotions

If you’re having a strong emotional reaction, whether it’s anger, frustration, or validation, take a moment and pause. At these times your critical perspective might be diminished when you should be fact-checking. Slow down and use your moves!

Move 1: Check for Previous Work

Many provocative claims on the Internet have already been fact-checked or researched. News coverage, trusted online sights, or fact-checking sites, such as Politifact or Snopes, may have a synthesis of the evidence readily available.

Move 2: Go Upstream to the Source

Check the embedded web links or perform a search to find the original or search for the source of the information.

Move 3: Read Laterally

Not all sources are created equal. If you are unsure about the quality of your source, read laterally across other trustworthy sites to find more information about the platform or author.

Move 4: Circle Back

Sometimes reading laterally will suggest that a source is not accurate, is more complex than you thought, or leads to a dead end. Stop and use what you have learned to begin a better-informed search.

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