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Fake News Fake Out: Fake News and Your Assignments

Information on fake news and methods to identify such sources.

Information Literacy at UA-PTC

UA-PTC is committed to the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education as established by the Association of College and Research Libraries and endorsed by the National Forum on Information Literacy. Therefore, all courses will incorporate an information literacy component so that, by graduation, all students will be able to recognize the need for information, then locate, evaluate, synthesize, and communicate information in an ethical manner. Information literacy encompasses critical thinking, research, media, technology, health, business, and visual literacy skills to produce lifelong learners who can make informed decisions in the workplace and in their personal lives

Fake News and Research Assignments

As you work on research papers and projects you will want to use credible, truthful sources to support your points. Using fake news sources, even by accident, will weaken your arguments, undermine your credibility, and may result in a lower grade on your research assignment. Here are some ways you can avoid fake news in your academic work.  

Search Tips to Avoid Using Fake News In Your Research Assignments

Nothing is foolproof, but there are a few steps you can take to avoid, or at least minimize the likelihood, of using fake news sources in your papers and projects. 

1. Try searching for non-internet sources. For the most part, information in books and published articles in academic journals,  magazines, and newspapers does not include fake news.       

Search for books in the UA-PTC Libraries Catalog here: Books & Media search     

Search for articles in the UA-PTC Libraries databases here: Articles & More search                          

2. When searching  try using a Site Operator in front of you search term to limit to likely credible sites. For example:

site:.gov will limit your results to government sites as in site:.gov immigration

site:.org will limit your results to organizations as in site:.org heart disease

3. Still not sure about a website? Try checking it against the Website Evaluation Worksheet.     

4. When in doubt, check it out. If you have any doubts about the information that you are using, try verifying it with another source. The When in Doubt, Check it Out box on the right has links to fact checking websites. 

This source should be credible, but...

Sometimes you might have information from a source that would normally seem credible due to the source's position or affiliations with credible organizations, but you also find contradictory information from other normally credible sources. In these cases you might present information from all sources to show that there is a question as to which information source is valid.

For example, we have this account of events from Samuel Arnold's Juvenile Amusements in 1797:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again.

Other sources present more specific, although conflicting versions of the story. An 1810 account from Gammer Gurton's Garland by Joseph Ritson gives an exact count of the men who came to help, but doesn't mention horses at all:

Humpty Dumpty sate [sic] on a wall,
Humpti Dumpti [sic] had a great fall;
Threescore men and threescore more,
Cannot place Humpty Dumpty as he was before.  

To complicate matters further in 1842, James Orchard Halliwell published this version of the story which has Humpty Dumpty falling into a mountain stream, with doctors and builders attending to his injuries:

Humpty Dumpty lay in a beck.
With all his sinews around his neck;
Forty Doctors and forty wrights
Couldn't put Humpty Dumpty to rights!

Since we can't reasonably determine which version of events might be true, it is acceptable to present all accounts, while attributing the various accounts to their sources. For example we might sum up these three accounts of Humpty Dumpty's accident like this:

Humpty Dumpty had an accident which resulted in serious injury. Accounts vary but Samuel Arnold and Joseph Ritson stated that Mr. Dumpty fell from a wall, while James Orchard Halliwell said that Mr. Dumpty “lay in a beck” or a mountain stream. The accounts estimated that as many as 120 men and possibly an unknown number of horses came to his aid but were unable to restore Mr. Dumpty to health.

“Humpty Dumpty” Wikipedia, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humpty_Dumpty. Accessed 3 Feb. 2017

 

6 Tips for Identifying Fake News

  1. Check the source behind the headline. 
  2. Look for clearly false information elsewhere in the article.
  3. Spend a little time background checking the information.
  4. Look for source citations—and check them!
  5. Check that any graphs or plots make numerical sense.
  6. Keep an eye out for these fake news red flags.

To read more each of these tips or hear the podcast from Sabrina Stierwalt, PhD, Everyday Einstein here.

When in Doubt, Check it Out

Not sure just how much truth is in that website, tweet, blog, or Facebook post? Try checking the information with these sites:

These sites and many others can be found in the Verification Handbook, Chapter 10: Verification Tools.

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