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LCAE Guide

Lateral Reading

What is lateral reading?

Credible: Trustworthy, reliable.
Credible sources are generally understood to be accurate and reliable sources of information, free from unfair bias. 

Quiz time! Who do you think would be best at discovering whether or not something from the internet is credible?

  • A college student
  • A university professor
  • A professional fact-checker

In a 2017 study about evaluating online information, two researchers sought to answer this question. They found that while most college students grew up using the internet and faculty members were experts in their fields, professional fact checkers were able to analyze the credibility of an online resource with greater accuracy and more speed. That is because, unlike the students and professors, they utilized lateral reading.

Lateral reading: Instead of staying with one website or article, you might need to jump around a bit. Open multiple tabs in your browser to follow links found within the source and do supplemental searches on names, organizations or topics you find. These additional perspectives will help you to evaluate the original article and can end up saving you time.

Things to remember:

  • The top result on Google is not always the best. Take a moment to scan the results and skim the snippets beneath the links.
  • Just because a website looks professional or credible doesn't mean that it is.
  • Sometimes you can find out more about a website by leaving the site itself.
  • You can use the command-F keyboard shortcut to search within an article for a name, group, or word.
  • Right-click on a link to open in a new tab.

Reference:

Wineburg, Sam and McGrew, Sarah. Lateral Reading: Reading Less and Learning More When Evaluating Digital Information (October 6, 2017). Stanford History Education Group Working Paper No. 2017-A1. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3048994

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