While wandering through the woods of information, would you blindly follow a path because one of the trees has a beautiful signpost that appeals to you, even though you have not read the content or verified the source? Of course not. You would stop to read all of the signs before following the path; your choice would be educated from reading all the signs and verifying the source, so you would not end up in darkness. Going with your gut is another uneducated choice and leads you down a shadowed path. Only through careful research and studying can you find the facts you are looking for. While there are many resources to assist with research, one easy-to-use one is the library and your librarians. National Library Week is a wonderful time to get to know your library and the resources it offers you.
Your librarian is trained specially to understand what a good source of information is and how to check if something one reads, hears, or sees is factual. They can help you find a credible source with citations to back it up and assist you in deciphering if a website or article is false or factual. Outrageous headlines are created to stir emotions in a reader and are an easy way to entice a reader or watcher to believe the story even before fact-checking it. Generally, if something seems too extreme to be true, it usually is. So you should always fact-check a story or article before using it for your research and decision-making.
A generally neutral site for checking facts is Snopes. On Snopes, you can enter in keywords and it will pull up internet rumors that deal with the topic. It will debunk or verify them to the best of the site’s ability. The site will also admit when they can’t verify something, which is very important. They try to track down primary sources to use for informing the reader.
There is also Factcheck.org, which, like Snopes, tries to be non-biased in reporting if something is true or not. They do truth check analysis of presidential speeches, rumors, and other items done by political leaders.
POLITIFACT (winner of a Pulitzer Prize) uses a “Truth-o-Meter” system when rating politicians and their claims. It is an easy-to-read website that gives explanations behind all of the ratings. The ratings run the gamut from “pants on fire” false to “true” with steps in between. Finally, the Washington Post also has a fact checker which has been known to be as non-biased and impartial as possible for a news outlet.
But most importantly, remember to check your library for help! Our librarians will be more than happy to assist you and can guide you down the twisting pathway of information. Have a very happy National Library Week.
For more information on website evaluation, fact-checking sites and videos, check out the Speech & Communication LibGuide.
Contributed by Heather Hilton, Librarian, Bay Shore