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Be Your Own Fact Checker

Be your own fact checker…

How is it possible to know what you are reading is correct? What is it about what you read that makes you question its accuracy? Here are a few simple tips for verifying information.

Sniff test

Does the information sound unlikely, inaccurate, implausible, counterintuitive, or do you just not agree with the view point? If the item raises doubts for any reason, go with your instincts and investigate, keeping in mind that just because you don’t agree doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong.

Source

  • Are you familiar with the source or is it new to you? If it is new, take the key point, fact, or data that has peaked your curiosity and google it. If it’s accurate, chances are it will appear elsewhere. Identify the author and publisher and look them up.

Motivation

Is there a particular opinion being forwarded by the author(s)? Does the item you are querying support this viewpoint? Does the publication or author have a history of showing a particular viewpoint?

Context

  • If you are being shown a number or a percentage, what is the denominator? Does the data give the population, geography, year, and original source (if secondary data)? Is the difference between two numbers presented as statistically significant? As a general rule, a difference of less than 5% could be within the margin of error. If it’s a quote, then when and where did it originate from? If the who, where, what, why, and when don’t add up – chances are something isn’t right.

False flags

  • Is the item intentionally misleading? Is it a red herring, and if so, why?