Fake vs. Fact - Library Research - NICC Library at Northeast Iowa Community College
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Library Research

Strategies, Tips, & Websites

   The Soviet dictator Josef Stalin (1879-1953) was famous for "editing out" disfavored Communist party members who formerly appeared in official photos.  Later images would show an empty space where these individuals--perhaps exiled, perhaps murdered--once stood. 

   Creating fake news (or fake photos) in order to deceive others is nothing new.   The various tabs in this box suggest different approaches (checklists, hints, and general strategies) that will remind you of what you should think about and check when reading a news item in a magazine, newspaper, or one that you find on the web. 

   Please review these tips until you feel more alert to the different ways that a reader or viewer can be misled by printed or online content.

Funny mnemonics are a useful way to help us remember important things.  The "C.R.A.P." (or "C.R.A.P.P.," etc.) criteria are a checklist of key points to consider when reading a news item, viewing a video, newsfeed, social media post, etc. 

"C.R.A.P.P." (or "CRAP," or "CRAAP") is a checklist method that has been around for many years, and exists in quite a number of permutations.  This guide presents one of them.  HERE is another example you may wish to review.

Just because an article may have been written by an advocacy group trying to persuade the reader toward a certain opinion, or by a company trying to get you to purchase its product, does not mean that the information is useless.  You simply must be alert to the hidden or obvious agenda of an author, and know that certain biases, or a single viewpoint, may exist.

How to Detect


  • Currency

How recent is the information?
How recently has the website been updated?
Is it current enough for your topic? Or is currency not necessarily a factor with your topic?

  • Reliability

What kind of information is included in the resource?
Is content of the resource primarily opinion? Is it balanced?
Does the creator provide references or sources for data or quotations?

  • Authority

Who is the creator or author?
What are the credentials?
Who is the publisher or sponsor?
Are they reputable? What basis do you have (not have) to evaluate this?
What is the publisher’s interest (if any) in this information?
Are there advertisements on the website?

  • Purpose

Does this website present fact or an opinion?
Is the website trying to sell you something?

  • Point of View

Does the creator/author express or give prominence to a point of view?
Are multiple viewpoints on the topic shown? (see “reliability” above)
Is bias, ridicule, or other subjective and/or pejorative attitude present?


The Newseum in Washington, D.C., has as its mission to champion the 5 freedoms identified in the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment:  religion, speech, press, assembly and petition.  They developed this criteria to assist readers in analyzing factual versus questionable/biased news they may encounter.


Do the facts hold up?


Who made this?  Can I trust them?


What's the big picture?


Who is the intended audience?


Why was this made?


How is this information presented?

Visitors to the Newseum's website may sign up for a free account to view additional resources, curriculum material, handouts, and more online and downloadable content.

This "checklist" method of reviewing website and content reliability incorporates the following six criteria:







For more information on these categories, please visit the author's website, at http://www.radcab.com/

This method is less a "checklist" than an overall strategy toward the goal of determining the factual nature and any potential editorial tone of a website, news report, or other statements and claims.

These  four steps outlined in Michael Caulfield's book, Web Literacy for Student Fact Checkers include:

Check for Previous Work

Go "Upstream" to the Source

Read Laterally

Circle Back

These are what the author calls "intermediate" moves that students can take to get closer to a more complete picture of an website or author's claim regarding certain events, ideas, ideologies, etc.  Please consult the author's free online book linked above for further detail.

The Full Fact Toolkit helps the user think through some basic questions about a website to determine if the information contained may be misleading or in error.  The 3 basic questions asked (with additional comments) are: 

(1) Where is it from?

(2) What is missing?

(3) How do you feel: 

Other links on the page include tips on How to spot misleading videos, How to spot misleading images, How to spot misleading headlines, How to spot misleading poll figures, & How to spot misleading crime reporting

Their webpage also includes a lengthy list of other national organizations that do fact checking in different countries.

When you use library resources (books, journals, article indexes & databases) much of this review is done for you.  Librarians, book editors, publishers, faculty, and database compilers have reviewed and analyzed material content to make certain it is appropriate for college students, other researchers, and the general public as a means for learning about a given topic, or enjoying well-written literature and leisure fiction.  Knowledgeable people write reviews of books which are read prior to purchasing something for our collections.  Articles are "peer reviewed" or "refereed" by other experts in a subject area who can evaluate the methodology, findings, background, etc., before something is published in certain journals.

Should you continue to have difficulties identifying suitable research material for a report, presentation, or other class assignment, we hope that you will consider asking a librarian for assistance.  We work hard to assemble quality research collections for your use, and welcome the opportunity to guide and assist you.

The very easiest thing is to type a keyword into an internet search box.  But the heavy lifting and true work of scholarship comes from sifting through the many (millions!) of results.  Anyone can look up at the night sky and claim they can see millions of stars.  That's called "information."  Only someone who's done some research and learning can look up at that same night sky and point out specific stars, constellations, planets, etc.  That's what's called "knowledge."  Remember that when someone tells you that the internet is full of information.