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Media Literacy Guide: Evaluating the News

Determining what is fake news is necessary and can be difficult. This research guide's purpose is to explain steps for finding the facts, how to use one's judgment and give examples for clarification.

Evaluating the News

It can be difficult to determine what is trustworthy news and what is not. Try these games to see how you do:


S     Source:

  • Where did the story come from? 
  • Is it a reputable news source?

M    Motive  

  • Why do they say so?  Do they have a special interest or bias that may cause them to slant information

A   Authority

  • Who is the author of the story?
  • What are their credentials?

R   Review

  • Go over the story carefully
  • Does it make sense?

T   Two-source test

  • Check for other sources about the story.
  • Does the two-source test confirm or contradict the story? 

SMART comes from the University of Washington Libraries

What Makes a News Story Fake?

  1. It can't be verified   A fake news article may or may not have links in it tracing its sources; if it does, these links may not lead to articles outside of the site's domain or many not contain information pertinent to the article topic.

  2. Fake news appeals to emotion: Fake news plays on your feelings - it makes you angry or happy or scared. This is to ensure you won't do anything as pesky as fact-checking.

  3. Authors usually aren't experts: Most authors aren't even journalists, but paid trolls.

  4. It can't be found anywhere else: If you look up the main idea of a fake news article, you might not find any other news outlet (real or not) reporting on the issue.

  5. Fake news comes from fake sites: Did your article come from or These and a host of other URLs are fake news sites.


How good are you are detecting fake news?  Take these quizzes to find out:

Washington Post: Know Your News Quiz

BuzzFeed: Can You Tell the Hoax News Stories from the Real Ones?

News - Definition & Description

Just what constitutes the News.  The following articles have some answers

  • News from Key Concepts in Journalism Studies - Credo Reference (access requires a SVC logon and password)
  • News from Wikipedia (this is a secure article from Wikipedia - editing is not allowed)

The CRAAP Test

Questions to ask when evaluating information:

Currency: the timeliness of information

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Is the information current or out-of date for your topic?
  • Are the links functional?

Relevance: the importance of the information for your needs:

  • What is the website about?
  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
  • Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper?

Authority: the source of the information

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • Are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?

Accuracy: the correctness, truthfulness and reliability of the content:

  • Where did the information come from? Did the author cite any sources?
  • Double-check statistics and facts with other reliable sources – library databases, encyclopedias, almanacs, etc.
  • Are there spelling, grammar or other typographical errors?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?

Purpose: the reason the information exists   

  • Why was this source created? To sell, inform, persuade?
  • Check language, content of page for bias.
  • If advertising is present on a page, is it separate from the informational content?
  • Check to see what the point of view is of the author or the sponsoring organization:
    • Look for “About the Author” or “About Us” links
    • Shorten the URL to find out about hosting site
    • Search for author/organization in search engines
    • Search for author/organization in periodical databases like EBSCO and ProQuest


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