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Media Literacy

Fact Checking Rules of Thumb

Fact Checking Rules of Thumb


Stop before you forward (or use): Before using a source for an assignment, or even sharing a link, we need to engage in a moment or two of investigation. 

  • Don’t cite, or share what you can’t verify.

Suspect the sensational: When something is sensational- be skeptical.

  • Exaggerated and provocative headlines or emotional language are serious red flags. Headlines or video titles that don’t accurately match the content also indicate sensationalism.  Hoaxers are often motivated by revenue and just want those clicks. 

Go to the source: When you read or hear about a research study or quote, follow up by checking into the actual study or quote source. Verify the information is correct and in context.

  • If a source misrepresents their sources... do not trust them or cite them.  

Triangulate: Try to verify the information in multiple sources (you can even try traditional media and library databases).  

Understand exactly what you are dealing with:  Identify the nature of your source.

  • Is it news reporting, an opinion piece, a feature story, an editorial, work by a guest blogger, a review, an op-ed, a comment, satire, or a disguised ad? Knowing the intention of the writing can help make sense of what you read. 

Investigate who is responsible for the information:  You can look at a profile or bio, and check the “About” and “Mission” pages of a website. However, even MORE importantly, go search for other reliable sources discussing the organization, authors, etc

  • Some organizations and individuals are upfront about their purpose and possible biases and agendas but many are not. Investigate who is responsible and why you should trust them. Google the organization and the individual. Do they have a code of ethics? Is the organization or individual linked to organizations with a known agenda? Do they have expertise?

Scrutinize graphics: Not all photographs (or videos) or infographics tell the truth.

  • Images are sometimes are digitally manipulated to deceive. A Google reverse image search can help discover the source of an image and its possible variations (see the video on this page). Also, beware misleading infographics, if there are statistics, check for their source. If they don't cite sources- do not trust them. 

Check your own biases: We all have a perspective, based on our experiences and beliefs.

  • We tend not to notice bias and error in information that agree with us, but we certainly notice when we disagree! Develop the habit of critically examining the facts even if you agree. If you are reacting emotionally to information- take time to consider what upset you and why.


Updated from Valenza, Joyce. “Truth, Truthiness, Triangulation: A News Literacy Toolkit for a ‘Post-Truth’ World.” School Library Journal. 26 Nov. 2016,