8 Go Lateral With Cues and Evidence

Peter Bobkowski

Learning Objectives

After reading this chapter, you will be able to:

  • Identify a series of credibility cues for any information source you come across.
  • Use lateral reading to organize the credibility evaluation process.
  • Identify evidence to support your assessment of every credibility cue.
  • Use credibility cues to decide whether an information source would contribute to or diminish your own credibility.

Fact-Checkers, Historians, and Stanford Undergrads

In this chapter, we introduce a strategy for evaluating the credibility of sources that’s based, in part, on a process called lateral reading, according to the online textbook Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers by information educator Mike Caulfield. We put our own twist on this process and call it the cue-and-evidence method, following a journal article by college librarian Erin Daniels.

The usefulness of lateral reading was illustrated recently in a study from the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG). In this study, Stanford researchers pitted professional fact checkers against Stanford undergraduates and historians with Ph.D.s. They gave each group the same article and a limited amount of time to figure out if the article was credible.

They found that fact checkers were always right when judging the validity of a piece. Surprisingly, though, the historians got it right about half the time, and undergraduates did not fare so well. Are you surprised that educated folks, undergraduates, like you, and professors, struggled? The Stanford researchers were a bit taken aback as well. But they figured out the difference in performance.

Fact-checkers all deployed a very similar technique for judging a news source, the Stanford group found. Historians and students spent a lot of time reading an article in order to assess its authority. Fact-checkers, on the other hand, spent as little as eight seconds looking at the article before moving on to researching it. Essentially, once fact-checkers identified a credibility cue, they immediately started researching it in other browser tabs.

The Stanford group called this “reading laterally.” Fact-checkers would see a name of an organization, for instance, and then pop open tabs in their browsers to find the organization’s website, Wikipedia entries and bibliographies about the organization, its staff, and its larger field. They also checked out what other news sources had to say about the topic.

After gathering and weighing the results of their research, the fact-checkers then would declare the source crap or not. In other words, the fact-checkers read, evaluated, and judged information against the greater network of information. This does not mean that you simply go with what the majority of other websites or people have to say about a topic. You use the network to reason a source’s credibility.

Add Cues and Evidence

Opening a tab for each new piece of information we want to search seems like good organizational practice. Our cue-and-evidence method, which we discuss in the remainder of this chapter, provides directions for what to search in all these tabs.

The cue-and-evidence method consists of four steps. They are:

  • Identify credibility cues.
  • Examine each cue and collect evidence about it.
  • Articulate how each cue contributes to or detracts from the overall credibility of the piece of information. Support each point with the evidence collected previously.
  • Provide an overall credibility assessment.

Let’s walk through each of these steps, and see how they work with a piece of information we might come across in the results of a Google search.

Let’s say that an assignment for our job requires us to learn and write about consuming coconut oil and its effects on health. Admittedly, that’s a niche topic, but bear with me. A Google search leads us to the article Is Coconut Oil the Miracle Food It’s Cracked Up to Be? by August McLaughlin on the website Livestrong.com.

The question before us is: Is this a credible enough article for you to cite in your own work? In other words, will citing this article make you look credible?

Please read the Livestrong article now and keep it open as we work through the remainder of this section.

Identify All of the Cues

The first step in the cue-and-evidence method is to identify all of the cues that we can use to evaluate this article’s credibility. Let’s go from the article’s top to its bottom and list these cues:

  • Livestrong.com
  • Article title
  • Date
  • Author
  • Dominant image
  • The article’s substance, that is, the information the article provides
  • The style in which the article is written
  • The sources used in the article
  • The ads that surround the article

This is not an exhaustive list; there may be other cues. But nine cues is a solid start.

To follow the lateral reading approach, we would open at least one new tab for each of these cues. In some cases, we would open two or more tabs per cue. We would use these tabs for the second step in the cue-and-evidence method: examining each cue and collecting evidence about it.

Examine Each Cue and Collect Evidence

Publisher

Most of the information we come across has a publisher, that is, it is one of a collection of pieces of information published in the same place or on the same website. In this case, the publisher is Livestrong.com. What should we be asking about this publisher?

A key question for any publisher concerns the presence of quality control. As we discussed in the note-keeping chapter, established media organizations like newspapers, magazines, academic journals, book publishers, and television stations, employ layers of fact-checkers and editors whose job it is to verify the accuracy of information before it is published in print or on a website, or broadcast on TV. “To seek truth and report it” is the first principle of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics. Serious news organizations want to get it right and having a staff that ensures the accuracy of the information contributes to a publisher’s credibility. The absence of a fact-checking staff and process, or the absence of information about such resources, can detract from the publisher’s credibility.

Another question that we can ask about a publisher is whether the publisher has a reputation for being a credible source of information. Some publishers are considered credible because of their long-standing record as reliable information sources. These organizations employ reporters who specialize in specific issues or geographic areas, and have long-standing relationships with key sources on the issues or places they cover. The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Time magazine are just a few examples of established media organizations that generally are considered authoritative and credible on the basis of their reputations.

Smaller, more regional media outlets may have a similar level of authority about information concerning the geographic regions where they operate. The Lawrence Journal-World, for example, is the authoritative information source about Lawrence, Kansas, and its surroundings. Non-news organizations, also, can be credible by virtue of their authority on an issue. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, is the health and medical authority in the United States. In the public records chapter, we look at documents and other information published by local, state, and federal governments. These governments and their agencies are the authoritative publishers of records and data over which they have jurisdiction.

But what about a site like Livestrong.com that doesn’t have an established reputation as an information source? How to gather evidence about its credibility? And how do we answer the first question, about its editorial process?

It is tempting here to rely only on what we know about Livestrong to evaluate this publisher. Livestrong is a foundation established by the disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong to raise funds for cancer treatment and research. Armstrong is no longer involved in the foundation so we shouldn’t use Armstrong’s lack of credibility as evidence against the credibility of the foundation. Collecting money for cancer treatment and research seems like a noble cause, but is that enough to judge Livestrong.com as a credible source of information?

Two places that we can use reliably to learn more about Livestrong.com is the website’s About link, and the WHOIS directory. Most websites provide some information about themselves on an About or About Us page. Time for a new tab, to explore a link to Livestrong.com’s About page. The link is located in the footer of the article but the site annoyingly extends the page by a new article every time we scroll down to a certain point. (This tactic should make us suspicious.)

The About page displays the organization’s mission statement, some audience metrics, contact information, and a link to job openings. But nowhere is there a staff listing, or an indication if the site employs any editors or fact-checkers. This should give us some pause.

Towards the bottom on the right, we see a statement that says “We are a proud licensing partner of the LIVESTRONG Foundation.” A licensing partner is not the foundation, so neither is this website the foundation’s website (because Livestrong.org is). Adidas is a licensing partner of the University of Kansas but that doesn’t make Adidas a credible source of information about anything that’s being taught or researched at KU. If the Livestrong Foundation is like KU in this partnership, who is like Adidas?

At the very bottom of the About page, in the right corner, there is a logo that we haven’t seen before for something called Leaf Group. New tab. The WHOIS directory, which provides information about the owners of Internet domains, confirms that Livestrong.com is owned by a Santa Monica company called Leaf Group.

What is Leaf Group? This is a clue we need to resolve to understand fully the credibility of Livestrong.com. Clicking on the logo in the bottom right and opening a new tab brings us to the LeafGroup.com website, where we learn that this is a web publishing company that, in addition to Livestrong.com, also runs the websites Cuteness.com, DenyDesigns.com, eHow.com, Hunker.com, Leaf.tv, Sapling.com, and Techwalla.com. It seems like Leaf Group is a content creation company. But is it credible? Googling “Leaf Group” and browsing through the news reports that pop up gives us a clearer picture.

We can search for news about the Leaf Group in a new tab. Leaf Group, formerly called Demand Media, has been referred to as a content farm, which we discussed in the last chapter. Demand Media has been criticized further for creating content to match the questions people search for most frequently. For example, if the company noticed in Google search data that people were searching for information about coconut oil, it would commission an article on coconut oil. Finally, the reason why we didn’t see any writers among Livestrong.com’s staff is that the company relies on freelance writers.

Using this evidence, we might collect evidence from all of our open tabs and write the following summary of whether Livestrong.com contributes to or diminishes this article’s credibility:

Livestrong.com does not contribute to this article’s credibility. [<- this is our conclusion; and here is our evidence ->] Livestrong.com relies solely on freelance writers, according to an article about its parent company. Its quality control resources, therefore, do not seem to be extensive, which does not contribute to this website’s credibility. Livestrong.com is part of Leaf Group, a large company whose purpose, judging from its website, does not seem to be to inform, but to maximize its advertising revenue by producing highly desirable content.

Phew! That was a very long evaluation of a single cue. But it was a complicated case. The next few cues won’t be as complex.

Article title and Date

Next on our list of cues is the article title, but evaluating this cue makes more sense after we read the entire article. So let’s save this cue for later.

Evaluating credibility based on the publication date concerns the timeliness or timelessness of the topic. How important is it for information about this topic to be recent, or to come from another specific time period? If the topic is continually developing, with new information adding to our understanding of it, then we want the source to be as recent as possible. For instance, new developments in how a wildfire spreads, or how the search for a missing person unfolds, call for the most recent information sources. For other topics, especially historical ones or ones that have remained stable over time, the fact that a source is contemporaneous to some event or issue in the past may contribute to that source’s credibility. For example, we may not need a source published yesterday to determine what Frederick Douglass’s next venture is.

In the case of our coconut article, how important is it that it be recent? This is a good opportunity to open a new tab and see how much people are using Google to look up information about coconut oil. A recent increase in searches would suggest that we may need a recently published article. Google Trends tracks and graphs the popularity of Google search terms. The graph that comes up for “coconut oil” is pretty flat, which suggests that there may not be new interest or information about this oil.

It seems wise for a source on coconut oil to be recent, but not necessarily published yesterday. The update date of our article is August 2018. We don’t know when it was first published. Depending on when you are reading this, that may or may not seem recent enough.

Based on this reasoning, here’s what we might write about how the article’s publication date contributes to its credibility:

This article’s update date of August 2018 contributes to its credibility. (<-this is our conclusion, and here’s our evidence ->) According to Google Trends, there has not been a recent spike in people’s interest in coconut oil. The topic of coconut oil as a food source should be up-to-date but not necessarily published yesterday.

Author

We turn next to considering the article’s author. Most of our students recognize that this is an important cue to consider. In a recent exercise, more than two-thirds of our students wrote about an article’s author as a way of evaluating the article’s credibility. So let’s make sure that we do this the right way.

An author contributes to the credibility of a source through authority over, expertise on, or experience with the source’s topic. Let’s first list the places where we can find information about the author’s background. Some websites will link an author’s byline (that is, the line that says By So-and-so) to a summary of the author’s biography and/or to a list of the author’s most recent articles. Alternately, the website’s About page might provide a list of its writers, along with their bios and links to their prior work. Outside of the home website, LinkedIn can be a good source on an author’s background. An efficient Google search strategy may be to enclose the author’s name in quotation marks, and follow it with a word related to the topic of the source we are evaluating.

So how about August McLaughlin, the author of our coconut oil article? Where can we find information that will help us determine if this author has authority, expertise, or experience with coconut oil, super foods and nutrition? Clicking the byline at the top of the article brings up a pop-up window with the author’s photo (which shows that August is a woman), and the following summary:

August McLaughlin is a health and sexuality writer, media personality and author of “Girl Boner: The Good Girl’s Guide to Sexual Empowerment.” Her work appears in Cosmopolitan, The Washington Post, DAME Magazine and more. augustmclaughlin.com.

This summary doesn’t contribute to this author’s credibility because it doesn’t tell us about her expertise in food or nutrition. There are no clues about this writer’s educational background, and other than a list of publications in which her work has been featured, we know nothing about the quality or quantity of her expertise. But we do have a link to her website.

New tab and type the author’s website: augustmclaughlin.com. The website appears dedicated to the author’s work as a writer and speaker on issues of women’s sexuality and, to a lesser extent, eating disorders. She has published a book titled Girlboner, and hosts a podcast of the same name. Her featured articles tend to affirm a sex-positive attitude toward human sexuality. But nothing on the site supports this author’s expertise on coconut oil and super foods.

Fortunately for us, the author also maintains a LinkedIn page, and it appears to be thorough and updated.

Let’s consider first the author’s education. There are two entries: “Edison Inst.: MA program, holistic nutrition,” and “AFPA, IFA, St. Cloud State: CN, CPT, psychology, nutrition, fitness, communication.” Since “Edison Inst.” is not a household name, let’s open up a new tab and Google it. It’s hard to know for sure, but this probably refers to the Edison Institute of Nutrition. Browsing through this organization’s website, we learn that it is a Canadian online program that offers a one-year Diploma in Holistic Nutrition. The prerequisite for this program is a high school diploma or its equivalent. There is no indication on this website that the institute offers an MA degree (MA generally stands for Master of Arts), as the LinkedIn profile indicates. It is possible that there was an MA program in the past, and that it is no longer offered. A cursory Google search does not return any information about a former MA program at Edison Institute.

The other credential listed is even more difficult to decipher. In a new tab, Googling “AFPA, IFA, St. Cloud State” does not lead to information about any programs at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. In fact, the search afpa site:stcloudstate.edu returns zero results. New tab, and Googling “AFPA” returns the organization American Fitness Professionals and Associates, which offers a host of certification programs for personal trainers, nutrition consultants, and other fitness professionals.

Step back and think: When someone wants to use an educational credential to support his or her credibility, isn’t it best to be transparent about this credential, to specify exactly what it is, and the institution that granted it? Professionals with solid and authentic educational qualifications have no need to hide behind educational acronyms that aren’t easily verifiable.

One last education-related consideration: what does it take to be a nutritionist? New tab and Google. Standards vary by state, but in Kansas, an individual has to be licensed as a registered dietitian (RD) in order to legally practice in this profession (this should induce a flashback to our licensing and credibility chapter). KU Medical Center’s Department of Dietetics and Nutrition lists these licensing requirements: a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics from an accredited program, supervised clinical practice, a national exam, and continuing education. As far as we can tell from her LinkedIn, the article’s author does not have the qualifications to practice as a nutritionist in Kansas.

But education isn’t everything. There are plenty of business and technology leaders who did not complete college or who are not educated formally in the fields in which they excel. Does August McLaughlin’s work experience tell us anything about her credibility? Back on her LinkedIn page, there are two nutrition-related entries in her experience. She has been a self-employed nutritionist since 2002, and she was a nutritional therapist at Bridges to Recovery for nine years. New tab and Google. This is a company that runs three upscale residential treatment homes for psychological conditions in southern California.

So let’s summarize what we have found about whether the author contributes or detracts from the article’s credibility.

The author does not contribute to the article’s credibility. (<- this is our conclusion; here is our evidence ->) The author does have some background in nutrition, having worked for nine years as a nutritional therapist for a psychological treatment company, according to her LinkedIn. The author does not appear to have the educational qualifications to practice as a Registered Dietitian, as outlined by KU Medical Center. The educational background she lists on LinkedIn is difficult to decipher. The author does seem to be a prolific producer of online content, but most of her writing is focused on women’s sexuality. The author does not appear to be an expert on nutrition or coconut oil.

Dominant image

Next let’s consider the article’s dominant image. How can an image contribute to or detract from the credibility of an article? Let’s start with the latter. An image can detract from the credibility of an article when it has nothing to do with the substance of the article. Images generate interest from a reader. Web publishers sometimes drive web traffic to their websites by enticing readers to click on links that feature compelling images. Then it turns out that the content of the website has little to do with the image.

An image can contribute to the credibility of a source when it deepens the information that the source presents, or provides additional evidence for this information.

The images that accompany the coconut oil article feature different forms of coconuts. The captions underneath the photos do not elucidate what’s in these images. Credits point to stock photo websites. We can open up a tab and do a Google Image Search on each of the images (see the effective search chapter for instructions). How would our understanding of the article change if the images showed up on other websites? Probably not much. The presence of the images may be neutral. Here’s how we might summarize our evaluation of this cue:

The images that accompany the article neither diminish nor contribute to the article’s credibility. The photos feature coconuts, which are related to the article’s topic of coconut oil. The photo illustrates the topic somewhat but does not expand on the information discussed in the article.

Article content

Let’s evaluate the article’s substance, that is, the content or information this article presents. Some of the questions we might ask to assess the article’s credibility based on substance are: Does the information seem factual? Is the information focused on a specific topic? Is the information thorough? Is the information unique?

The article discusses what appears to be factual information about coconut oil, and about whether it is advisable to consume it. But the author seems to downplay risks associated with coconut oil in face of limited benefits in specific populations, like children with epilepsy. In a section on coconut oil and cholesterol, research and experts appear to agree that it is best to limit coconut oil intake. But toward the bottom of the article, the author minimizes this consensus to conclude that, “While emerging research has shown that the oil isn’t as bad for our diets as was once believed and that it may bring benefits, it’s also not ‘miraculous.'”

How to summarize the extent to which content contributes to the article’s credibility?

The article’s content does not contribute to its credibility. (<- this is our conclusion; here’s our evidence ->) The article provides, what appears to be, factual, focused summaries about consuming coconut oil. The author’s conclusions seem to downplay a medical consensus against the general population’s consumption of coconut oil.

Article title

Now that we have a good grasp on the article’s content, we can go back and consider whether the article’s title — “Is Coconut Oil the Miracle Food It’s Cracked Up to Be?” — contributes or detracts from the article’s credibility. The main criteria to consider is: Does the title accurately reflect the substance of the article? In this case, the answer seems to be “yes.”

While the body of the article does answer the title’s question, there is a problem with how coconut oil is set up as a “super food” at the beginning of the article. The author begins by writing that coconut oil is now “everywhere, including on health-food fans’ lists of favorites.” But she provides no evidence of this sudden rise in coconut oil’s popularity. So the entire premise of the title and the article seems contrived, or at least not supported with evidence. This suggests that the article may be a piece of clickbait. Whether here or in the content section above, this observation can serve as evidence against the article’s credibility.

In sum:

The title detracts from the article’s credibility. (<- this is our conclusion; here’s our evidence ->) The title’s premise that coconut oil may be a super food is not supported with evidence. The article’s provocative but unsupported title suggests that the article may be a piece of clickbait.

Writing style

Our third-last cue is the style in which the article is written. The article’s style concerns the author’s tone, bias, whether the author uses persuasive language, as well as the quality and organization of the writing.

Reading through the article, we might characterize the author’s tone as mostly neutral and informative. She may be somewhat biased toward coconut oil, as discussed above, in that her conclusion does not match the evidence she discusses. But she does not use any emotion-charged language, and there is no indication that she is attempting to persuade us of anything. The writing is clear, it follows general standards of journalistic writing (i.e., short, informative, error-free paragraphs). The article is organized into clear, distinctly focused sections.

A summary of this evidence is as follows:

The style in which the article is written neither contributes to nor diminishes its credibility. (<- this is our conclusion; here’s our evidence ->) The author is somewhat biased toward coconut oil, but the writing style is informative and generally journalistically sound.

Sources

We come to sources, a credibility cue that our students in the past have used most frequently. In a recent exercise, 85 percent of our students used an article’s sources as criteria for evaluating the article’s credibility. There are several questions we should ask about sources.

First, should we expect the source we are evaluating to cite other sources? If we are looking at a primary source of information, such as a public record or a transcript of an interview, then no, we would not expect a primary source to include other sources. We would expect a secondary source, however, like most news sources, to indicate what their sources of information are.

Once we determine that the source we are evaluating should show its sources, the next question is: Does it? The standards for showing sources differ from one genre of writing to another. In research articles and college essays, and in some books, sources are cited in text and in a References or Works Cited page. Sometimes they’re cited in footnotes or endnotes. As you might know from the attribution chapter, this is not the standard for showing sources in journalistic writing. In journalism, sources are fully identified and cited in text. Strategic communication documents usually use a hybrid approach, identifying and citing sources in text, and also including a References section.

Another convention of online journalistic writing is that online sources are linked to from an article by way of embedded hyperlinks. This is a way for journalists to increase their transparency. By providing links to their sources, journalists help their readers verify the accuracy of the information they report. So the question we should also ask about sources in online articles is: Are they linked?

The last and most significant question about sources is: Does the nature of the sources contribute to or diminish the article’s credibility? While each cited source could be examined in as great a depth as the original source, a simple question may help us not get mired in an infinite evaluation of sources: Is the cited source more credible than the original source?

So let’s answer these questions for the coconut oil article. Should it show its sources? Yes, it is a secondary source of information. Does it show sources? Yes. Since it is a piece of online journalism, we expect it to identify and cite its sources in text, and we also expect it to link out to its online sources. It cites and identifies its sources in text, and it links to them. So far, so good.

Here are the sources the article cites in its first ten paragraphs.

  • A Livestrong article,
  • An American Heart Association report,
  • Two peer-reviewed studies published in the medical journal Open Heart,
  • A peer-reviewed study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,
  • A Time magazine story on coconut oil,
  • A peer-reviewed study published in the journal Nutrition Reviews,
  • Business Week article about a YouTube video of a talk by a Harvard public health professor,
  • A peer-reviewed study published in the medical journal Circulation,
  • A recommendation article from the American Heart Association,
  • A nutrition database published by the United States Department of Agriculture,
  • A Harvard nutrition blog.

The rest of the article cites another 15 sources that likewise include Livestrong articles, newspaper articles, public health nonprofits, and peer-reviewed journal articles.

Ideally, we would open a new tab for each source and evaluate its credibility. A cursory look, however, suggests that the article uses a mix of solid primary sources (i.e., peer-reviewed medical articles, USDA database, public health nonprofits), and a number of secondary or tertiary sources. The primary sources are more credible to cite than the Livestrong article we’re considering. It turns out that greatest value of this article may be that it’s led us to a number of primary sources about coconut oil consumption and health to use in our own article.

This is how we can sum up our examination of sources as a credibility cue:

The article’s sources contribute marginally to the article’s credibility. (<- this is our conclusion; here’s our evidence ->) The article cites a mix of primary sources like peer-reviewed medical journals, and secondary sources like other Livestrong articles. A number of these primary sources appear to be more credible than the article itself, so citing these sources may be a good alternative to using this Livestrong article as a source in my own writing.

Ads

Our last credibility cue to examine are the ads that surround the article. Like most websites run by for-profit media organizations, Livestrong.com content is encircled by advertising content. Advertisers purchase the ad space on these websites. Revenue from the ads is used to pay for the work that goes into generating content and maintaining the website. In addition to buying ad space, advertisers buy our (that is, the readers’) eyes and our attention. In the transaction between content-providing websites and advertisers, we, the readers, are the commodity.

Does advertising featured next to an article detract from an article’s credibility? In most cases, no. But neither does advertising contribute to an article’s credibility. Unless you are a purist who believes that any profit motive ruins the credibility of an information source, advertising is a necessary element of the news media environment.

Undoubtedly, some ads are annoying, some ads are in bad taste, and some ads are designed to distract us with compelling (or weird) images and headlines. At established, credible information organizations, there is a clear differentiation between the editorial side of the business, that is, the people who produce the news or other content, and the ad side, that is, those who sell ad space.

In many cases these days, the ads that are displayed on a website are not controlled by the organization that runs the website, but by an ad company such as Google Ads, TripleLift, or Taboola. Increasingly, the ads you see are tailored to your prior search and browsing history, which are stored on your computer. This is why the ads you see in this Livestrong article probably are not what your neighbor in class sees when she reads the same article.

Our summary of this credibility cue is as follows:

The ads that surround the article neither contribute to nor diminish its credibility. (<-this is our conclusion; here’s our evidence ->) Advertising is a necessary element of the news media system, generating revenue that supports news organizations and the work they produce. The ads displayed alongside this article are no more or less credible than other ads displayed across the Internet.

Provide an Overall Credibility Assessment

Finally, we are ready for the fourth step of the cue-and-evidence system: To provide an overall credibility assessment of this article, based on the nine credibility cues we examined. Recall that the question we set out to answer is: If we used this article in our own writing about consuming coconut oil, would using this article contribute to our credibility?

A simple answer: No. This article would not contribute to our credibility. In fact, by citing this article in our work, we might jeopardize our credibility. It’s best for us to find a more credible source of information about coconut oil. Let’s list the conclusions of all our cue evaluations. If we were doing this for credit on an assignment, we would write each cue’s full evaluation summary here.

  • Livestrong.com is not a credible publisher of coconut oil consumption information because its purpose is to create highly desirable content and maximize its ad revenue.
  • The title diminishes the article’s credibility because its statement that coconut oil is a super food is not supported with evidence.
  • The recent publication date neither contributes to nor diminishes the article’s credibility.
  • The article’s author does not contribute to the article’s credibility because she is not qualified as a nutrition specialist.
  • The images neither contribute to nor detract from the article’s credibility. They are relevant but do not enhance the article’s content.
  • The article’s content does not contribute to its credibility. It appears factual but the author’s conclusions contradict the evidence she cites.
  • The writing style neither contributes to nor diminishes the article’s credibility because while it is well-organized, and well-written, it does display some bias for consuming coconut oil.
  • The article’s sources contribute marginally to its credibility, but a number of them are more credible to use than the article itself.
  • The ads around the article neither contribute to nor detract from its credibility.

Peer Tutorials: Credibility Evaluations

In the following video, Katie Gross (JOUR 302, spring 2019) walks step by step through a credibility evaluation for Section 2 of JOUR 302’s research briefs.

In the next video, Jaime Southerland and Grace Sullivan (JOUR 302, spring 2019) show how to evaluate the credibility of a news source.

In the next tutorial, Sophia Misle and Emma Walsh (JOUR 302, spring 2019) demonstrate good and bad credibility cue evaluations.

Activity: Check their sources

Evaluate the “sources” cue for this National Public Radio article about the Food and Drug Administration’s move to ban vaping. Consider whether primary or secondary sources are used throughout or if there are any sources excluded who should be included. Are the sources  credible and how do the sources affect the credibility of the article?

Activity: Publishers Weakly

Evaluate the “publisher” cue for each of the following websites. Based on your evaluations, can you organize these websites into two or more different categories?

  • Buzzfeed
  • Cracked
  • Crave
  • Diply
  • Odyssey
  • Upworthy

License

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Be Credible by Peter Bobkowski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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