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Media Literacy and Fact-Checking: Step 2: Evaluate the Information

Detecting CRAAP

One of the most popular evaluative tools is the CRAAP test, which encourages the reader to consider information's

  • Currency
  • Relevance
  • Accuracy
  • Authority
    and
  • Purpose

The Detecting CRAAP Research Toolkit workshop, available online and as a Pilot module, provides an in-depth explanation of and opportunity to practice the CRAAP evaluative test.

SIFT Method

Many checklist-based approaches have weaknesses in dealing with the fast news of the open web and social media. Mike Caulfield of Washington State University Vancouver developed the SIFT method to simplify steps while keeping a clear focus on "things to do." 

 

  • Stop - Don't read or share media until you know what it is and where it's coming from; and, if you feel yourself getting overwhelmed in your efforts, take a step back and remember what your purpose for the information is and how that should affect how you interact with it.
     
  • Investigate the Source - Know what you're reading before you're reading it. Ask yourself who put out the information, for whom, and why.
     
  • Find better coverage - Are you interested in the specific piece of information that found you or the claim that they're making? If it's the latter, do an independent search to find the best source and a variety of sources that cover that topic.
     
  • Trace claims, quotes, and media back to the original source. - Rather than relying on reports of what a source said, can you find the original statement, claim, or finding in its original context?

For more details on the SIFT method, the canonical course is available online here

Beyond Fact-Checks: Evaluation Strategies

You might encounter a claim that hasn't already been addressed by a fact-checking site. When this happens, consider these strategies to evaluate the information.

Kovach and Rosenstiel encourage the use of "The Way of Skeptical Knowing." Ask yourself the questions:

  • What kind of content am I encountering?​
  • Is the information complete and, if not, what am I missing?​
  • Who or what are the sources and why should I believe them?​
  • What evidence is presented, and how is it tested or vetted?​
  • What might be an alternative explanation or understanding?
  • Am I learning what I need to?

Aveyard, Sharp, and Wooliams offer a distinction between critical thinking and critical appraisal. Apply the questions from the critical appraisal approach when you are evaluating information to facilitate critical thinking. 

Critical Thinking  

Adopting a questioning approach and thoughtful attitude to what you think, see, or hear, rather than accepting things at face value.

Critical Appraisal

Consider the strengths and limitations of the evidence you see and hear, depending on the type of evidence you have. Ask: 

  • Where does it come from?
  • What is being said?
  • How did they write this?
  • Who is telling me this?
  • When was it written?
  • Why was it written?

Questions?
Ask your librarian!