Toolkit for Evaluating Online Sources: Rowan University Librarians Create Materials Based on Fact-checker Strategies

Outdated and ineffective web evaluation strategies can leave students susceptible to misinformation, but many educators are creating materials to help students be smarter consumers of online information.

Rowan University librarians Andrea Baer and Dan Kipnis created an online toolkit to do just that.

Drawing from our research on Civic Online Reasoning, the toolkit teaches simple, yet effective web evaluation strategies based on the practices of professional fact checkers, including lateral reading (opening new tabs to investigate an unfamiliar source) and click restraint (pausing to scan search results to find the best source before clicking). These strategies help students more efficiently identify what sources can be trusted by looking beyond the most easily manipulated features of a source, like a site’s domain, and instead considering who is behind it.

To provide guided practice using these strategies, the toolkit includes a 30-40 minute interactive tutorial activity. Participants review the skill of lateral reading and then use it to evaluate various online sources.

The guide offers a number other web evaluation tips, including strategies for evaluating online images and media, and provides teaching resources.