Spotting Fake News

Don't let Fake Stories Ruin Your Credibility as a Researcher

Why Are We Hearing So Much About Fake News?

Bogus news stories have been around as long as people have been reporting. News stories were originally sensationalized to sell newspapers. The more exciting and outrageous the headline, the higher the sales. Social media has certainly added a new and complex layer to the fake news phenomenon. A recent Pew Research Study reported that "64% of Americans have admitted to being confused about basic facts" (Greenwood). As an academic researcher it's your responsibility to use credible sources when researching for a project or paper. Using fake, manipulated, biased or discredited sources will have a direct impact on your future academic and professional career. So, how can you determine if a news story that you see online is fake? Read on. . .

How "Deepfakes" May Influence the 2020 Election

The Scope of the Fake News Problem (Spoiler Alert: It's Bad.)

What You Can Do To Spot Fake or Manipulated News

1. Understand These Terms

IMPLICIT BIAS: "Implicit bias refers to the idea that as humans we have a tendency to group people into categories. We are inclined to trust people we consider a member of our own group more than those of a different group. The word implicit indicates that it is a bias that influences us without our knowing it."

CONFIRMATION BIAS: "Confirmation bias refers to our tendency to seek out information that confirms what we already know or believe to be true. We are likely to believe “facts” that conform to our beliefs. More startling, we may actually turn a blind eye to facts that contradict our beliefs. We usually think of seeing as believing, but in this case, we don’t see what we don’t already believe."

CLICKBAIT: The fishing reference is legitimate. Advertisers are trying to catch your attention and make you curious enough to take the bait. Example: A social media story that reads, "This Dad Mixed Sprinkles into his Daughter's Applesauce-- YOU WON'T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED NEXT!" The point of articles such as this is to get you to view advertising or to collect information about your searching interests. Clickbait articles are not sources-- for anything.

BRANDED CONTENT: Branded Content may seem more like entertainment, but it is really creative video advertising. Branded content focuses more on getting an emotional response from the audience rather than the product itself. Examples of successful branded content include The Lego Movie, Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty and Proctor and Gamble's #LikeAGirl campaign. Branded content is meant to provide information, but be careful-- advertisements may be just hiding around the corner.

NATIVE ADVERTISING: Native Advertising can be tricky because the format matches the style of the platform that you are viewing, but its goal is to direct you to a product. Most of these articles are labeled as advertising but you need to be on top of your game to make sure that you are not being duped by them.

2. Avoid Using Articles with These Labels

  • Sponsored Content
  • Ads by Google
  • Paid Post
  • Written FOR
  • Recommended for You
  • Content from the Web
  • Promoted by (fill in company name here)

3. Fact-check

Good researchers crosscheck their sources. Never heard of a person, title or organization? Google them to learn about their background, credentials and motives. Think a story might be fake? Then check it out on one of the following sites before deciding to incorporate it into your research or sharing it with someone else:

4. Use the CARS Method

When considering using any type of free, online sources for research make sure the site, article, video or post has the following characteristics.
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Evaluation Tools for Online Sources

Below is the high school library's link to our online source evaluation form. It is a quick checklist that can help you to determine if an online source is Credible, Accurate, Reasonable and Supported. If you are in need of help finding solid resources, please come and talk to us in the library-- we can definitely point you in the right direction!

If You Want to Learn More...

How false news can spread - Noah Tavlin
The following charts depict two opinions about the political lean of news sources. Do you agree with their choices? Do your news sources reflect your political views? As researchers it's your responsibility to use sources that reflect as close to a neutral stance as possible in today's world.
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Photo Credit: Vanessa Otero
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Photo credit: InfoWars
How to choose your news - Damon Brown
Photo Credit: Infowars


Brown, Damon, “How to Choose Your News.” TED-Ed, 5 June 2014,

Fillucci, Sierra. “How to Spot Fake News (and Teach Kids to Be Media-Savvy).” Common Sense Media, Common Sense Media Education, 16 Nov. 2016,

Greenwood, Shannon. “Majority Say Fake News Has Left Americans Confused about Basic Facts.” Pew Research Center's Journalism Project, Pew Research Center, 14 Dec. 2016,

Jacobson, Linda. “The Smell Test.” School Library Journal, Jan. 2017, pp. 24–28.

“Fake News: Why We Fall For It.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, Dec. 2016,

Tavlin, Noah, “How False News Can Spread.” TED-Ed, 27 Aug. 2015,