by By Megan Hardison
All right let’s get this out of the way: sometimes Google is the answer. You have lots of resources available to you for research, and you should learn how and when to use all of them. When library resources aren’t going to do the whole job, you may need to turn to the open web. But how can you evaluate so many sources and decide which is “good enough” for you to use?
Tabs. The answer is tabs. When you’re visiting websites, think like a professional fact-checker and “read laterally”: open lots of new tabs to verify and corroborate the content you encounter, rather than relying on a “vertical reading” of a single site to prove itself. Reading laterally looks like this:
|Pop some tabs to source check.
Don’t trust an “about us” or a URL. If a site is willing to circulate sketchy information on their pages, then they’re going to be willing to mislead you in their “about us”, too. And that “.org” domain just means non-profit; it doesn’t guarantee honest and upstanding digital content. Open some tabs to cross-check and find out more about the site you’re visiting.
|Open some tabs to author check.
When we read vertically and deep dive into one page, we often seek out an author’s provided “blurb” and take it at face value. But should we? No one wants to trash talk themselves. “Blurbs” paint an author in the best light. Open a few tabs to see what others are saying about an author’s work and to verify their credentials.
|Crack a few tabs to fact check.
A good rule for when to fact-check a statement is when it evokes a strong emotional response. Those emotional responses – positive or negative – trigger your “lizard brain”, and disrupt your efforts to think critically. Corroborate the facts with multiple sources – including recognized, authoritative sources for that subject area.
|Save a tab for the original source!
In the research world, we call it “going upstream.” The idea is that very little content on the web is actually original, so you need to skip over “shares” and recirculated content to look for an idea’s source. Follow the links, references, and citations in the page you accessed to try and reach the ORIGINAL article/study/information.
Now get out there and pore over those tabs – you beautiful people! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrPkWNJeHzg&feature=youtu.be