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Fact Checking Strategies: Four Moves and a Habit

Fact checking information is something anyone can do. It does take time, but fact-checking before you share may save you and others a lot of headache later if the fact seems unclear or questionable. While there are many fact-checking strategies you can use, one of our favorites comes from Michael Caufield's Web Literacy for Student Fact Checkers. He calls them:

4 Moves and a Habit

Here's how Caufield describes what those moves and a habit look like:

  1. Check for previous work: Look around to see if someone else has already fact-checked the claim or provided a synthesis of research.
  2. Go upstream to the source: Go “upstream” to the source of the claim. Most web content is not original. Get to the original source to understand the trustworthiness of the information.
  3. Read laterally: Read laterally.[1] Once you get to the source of a claim, read what other people say about the source (publication, author, etc.). The truth is in the network.
  4. Circle back: If you get lost, hit dead ends, or find yourself going down an increasingly confusing rabbit hole, back up and start over knowing what you know now. You’re likely to take a more informed path with different search terms and better decisions.

The habit is to check your emotions while checking the facts. If you've ever felt charged up about a specific issue or experience a strong emotional reaction when you read a headline, congratulations, you're a human! We all have biases and worldviews we bring with us to reviewing and evaluating information. Being conscious of those emotions is helpful when fact-checking because it can help us stay focus on what we're really looking for: the facts.  


Read the book for more detail and examples on applying these strategies.

Web Literacy for Student Fact Checkers by Michael A. Caufield.

Four Moves and a Habit Infographic

Fact checking web sites

Navigating COVID Conversations with Others

Sometimes vaccine conversations can feel uncomfortable. You may have someone in your life you'd like to discuss vaccine choices with, but you're not sure how to get started. These resources can help you find ways to make those into productive conversations: