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Critical Thinking

Introduction

It is important to determine the credibility of the online resource before reading the article. To do this, it is necessary to leave the site to see what other's are saying about this site. The information used on this page comes from a research study by the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG). They tested the ability of professional fact-checkers, university history professors, and Stanford college students to evaluate life websites and search for information about social and political issues. The fact-checkers were successful in all tasks in a fraction of the time. The two skills they used were Taking Bearings and Reading Laterally. These skills are explained in the boxes below.

If interested in reading more of this study, click on the title: Lateral Reading: Reading Less and Learning More When Evaluating Digital Information.

Reading Laterally

Reading laterally also means going to other websites before fully reading information on the original site. This method involves opening one or more webpages on the horizontal axis of the browser.

  1. See if there is any pertinent information about the website's contributors/sponsors on the "About" tab (Open link to the sponsor in a new window using the keyboard shortcut. Hold down ctrl (command key for Mac) while clicking on the link)
  2. If the website is a legitimate news source, the Trusted Times Google Chrome app will indicate whether the site is rated as liberal, conservative, or somewhere in-between.
  3. Open a new tab to Google about the contributor/sponsor (Use the Digipo Google Chrome app to do this quicker)
  4. Read Google snippets (short explanations of sites) to determine reliable source.
  5. Instead of reading article/source, use shortcut Ctrl/Command-F to search for key words in the article. (A search box will appear and you type in word(s) that you investigating.)
  6. Other search techniques work in Google to find more specific information about a particular site. For example you could search "minimumwage.com" AND reliable? Be careful to make sure you are not looking at what the site is saying about themselves.

Taking Bearings

When exploring an unfamiliar website, you need to see what you can find out about the organization sponsoring the site. Websites are not always as they seem on the World Wide Web.

Use the following methods/tools:

  1. Check the "About Us" section to see if the sponsoring organization is identified.
  2. Use sources like Google and Wikipedia to read about the organization. (Use the Digipo Google Chrome app as a shortcut to Google the site.)