The American Democracy Project’s DigiPo offers these four steps and a habit for evaluating online news sources.
The habit: check your emotions
If you experience a strong emotional response, whether it’s anger, frustration, or validation, take a moment and take a break. At these times, your critical perspective may be diminished when you should be checking the facts. Slow down and use your moves!
Trip 1: Check previous work
Many provocative claims on the Internet have already been verified or investigated. Media coverage, trusted online sites, or fact-checking sites, such as Politifact or Snopes, may have a summary of the evidence readily available.
Movement 2: go upstream to the source
Check the embedded web links or search to find the original or find the source of the information.
Movement 3: Read sideways
Not all sources are created equal. If you are unsure of the quality of your source, later read other reputable sites to find more information about the platform or the author.
Movement 4: Circle back
Sometimes a side reading suggests a source isn’t accurate, is more complex than you might think, or leads to a dead end. Stop and use what you’ve learned to be a more informed research.
Further Reading: Mike Caulfield, Web Literacy for Student Fact Checkers (2017)