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How the Earth Works: Fake News - How to Spot It

Indentifying Bias

Identifying Bias: is it "fake news?"

1.  Author

A. Who wrote the article?  (It could be an individual or an institution).

B. Does the author have credentials in this area?

C. What is their stake in making this argument?  In other words, why do they care?

2. Publication

A. Who published it? (Sometimes the author and publisher are the same, as on some websites or blogs)

B. Who pays to produce this publication or who sponsors it?  What does that tell you about the bias?

C. Who is the audience?  What does that tell you about the bias?

3.  Read Beyond

A. Does the story have an attention grabbing headline?

B. Does the material in the website back up claims in the headline?

C. Are there supporting sites or quotes/commentary from experts in the field?

D. Does this story draw on facts or emotion?

4. Language

A. Does the author present his argument in extreme language? Does he write to appeal to emotions?  If so, provide some examples.

B. Does the author use value-laden terms that lend a negative impression (as in ‘illegal aliens’ versus ‘undocumented workers’). If so, provide some examples.


Overall, is this a trustworthy news story? Use criteria to evaluate a source. In Libraries, we often use the CRAAP Test* to evaluate websites, and these criteria are useful for evaluating news as well. These criteria are:​

  • Currency: is the information current? Many times on Facebook, you will click on a story and notice that the date was from a few months or years ago, but your "friends" are acting outraged as if it is happening in the moment.
  • Relevance: is the information important to your research needs? This criterion perhaps applies most if you are out seeking information, rather than just stumbling across it. Does the information relate to your question and at the appropriate-level (elementary/advanced)? Have you looked at a variety of sources before selecting this one?
  • Authority: who is the author/publisher/sponsor of the news? Do they have authority on the subject? Do they have an agenda? 
  • Accuracy: Is the information supported by evidence? Does the author cite credible sources? Is the information verifiable in other places?
  • Purpose: What is the purpose of this news? To outrage? To call to action? To inform? To sell? This can give you clues about bias.

So, finally, does your news source pass the CRAAP Test?