Evaluating Information Online

Explained by Common Craft
The Internet is a source of both high and low quality information. Being able to evaluate what information is trustworthy, or not, is an important and valuable skill.
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Video Transcript:

Finding accurate and useful information on the Web can be frustrating.  With so many websites, it’s difficult to know what is trustworthy and factual. To solve this problem, you need think like an editor.  Let me explain.

Back before the Web, books, newspapers and journals were the main sources of information and like today, they were usually trustworthy. This is partly because these resources are expensive to produce. Publishers need special equipment and staff, and a way to ensure that they only print trustworthy information. If they print bad information, the business could fail.

This is the job of the editor, who acts as a gatekeeper. Editors ensure that everything that’s printed meets the organization’s standards.

Today, things have changed. Almost anyone with a computer and Internet connection can be a publisher, no printing press or editor required. For most websites there is no gatekeeper. This means that you, as a reader, now have to think like an editor and take an active role in deciding what websites you can trust. Here are some things to consider:

Editors and journalists often depend on existing facts and information in their work. When an article states something as a fact, like “The annual rate of inflation in 1980 was 13.58%” that information can be sourced from the U.S. government - and that source matters. If an article names high quality sources of facts along with the article, it’s a good sign.

And reputation is important to editors. They consider the reputation of the publisher and author, when the information was published, and more. As a reader, ask yourself:  Do you recognize the website or author? Are they a known authority? Is the information current? These answers matter and can help you find the best information.

When a news event happens, editors look for eye witness accounts. If two people witness the same thing, it can often be considered a fact. The same is true for websites - if you can find the same information on multiple trustworthy websites, there is a better chance it’s accurate.

Editors also work toward fairness in covering controversial subjects like politics. A single subject can be viewed from multiple perspectives and they work hard to understand all sides before publishing. Smart readers do the same with websites, where conflicting opinions are common and often productive.

Consider the author’s goals and biases. Ask yourself: Are they selling something?  Is he or she representing an organization or group?

Answering these kinds of questions are all part of being your own gatekeeper for the information you read. And once you start thinking like an editor, you’ll be better able to make your own projects the best they can be.


What it teaches:

This video walks through the basics of evaluating a website to find quality information. It encourages viewers to evaluate websites in the way an editor would review an article.  By thinking like an editor, we can be our own gatekeeper and learn to find the most trustworthy information. It teaches:

  • Why editors matter in helping books and newspapers ensure quality information
  • How the Web has allowed most people to publish without an editor, creating inconsistency
  • Clues everyone could learn from editors that help them evaluate a website's trustworthiness
  • Consideration of bias and controversial subjects

Video Info:

  • Duration:  02m 59s
  • Captions Available:  YES
  • Lesson Plan:  YES
  • Category:  Technology, Net Safety, Study Skills
  • ISTE Standard:  Knowledge Constructor, Indicator 3b
  • ACRL Info Literacy Frame:  Authority is Constructed and Contextual, Searching as Strategic Exploration, Scholarship as Conversation

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