We recommend adopting 4 moves and a Habit when evaluating online information.
Check Your Emotions
A lot of online information is meant to provoke and inflame our emotions. Emotions can impair our ability to think critically, so check in with yourself to see how you are feeling. Angry? Disgusted? Irritated? Pause and reflect. If you haven’t already gone through the moves, it’s time to start.
Never forget that sharing opinions online is free and easy; establishing credibility takes work and time. Reading laterally refers to opening up new search tabs to run searches on the person or organization to confirm legitimacy. Is the person or organization reputable? Are they known to provide unbiased and factual information?
Consider the Source
“Recent research says…” or “Scientists confirm…” are too vague for you to rely on. Considering the source involves you actively seeking out the original information and evaluating it for yourself. What conclusions do you come to on your own?
Check Previous Work
There is a good chance that the information you found has been interpreted or summarized by the source you are reading. These filters can warp information and we are not always given the whole picture. Checking for previous work includes looking to see what other credible sources have to say about the topic so you can see the whole picture.
Any one of the previous moves could reveal that your source is questionable, low quality, or untrustworthy. It happens. Stop immediately and circle back to where you started and try a fresh, new search with stronger keywords and search terms using reliable and trustworthy sources. Use what you have found to find a higher quality source, what Michael Caulfield calls 'Trading Up'.