The following videos from Mike Caulfield, whose done a lot of work on evaluating and fact-checking online sources, provide an overview of what lateral reading is and some suggestions on how to do it.
This first video illustrates the importance of evaluating sources through something called “lateral reading” (when evaluating a website, looking at what others have said about that page, rather than relying primarily on what the site says about itself)
The second video provides a simple demonstration on how to put lateral reading into action. NOTE: Many new or contentious topics may require more work than the example shown here.
If you'd like to explore more about developing online verification skills, the final 2 videos in Mike Caufield's series are about Finding the Original Source (Video 3) and Looking for Trusted Work (Video 4).
SIFT is a helpful acronym for initially evaluating source credibility. SIFT (from Mike Caulfield) stands for:
Modified from Mike Caulfield's SIFT (Four Moves), which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Later, when you determine that a source is worth your time, you can analyze the source's content more carefully.
There are numerous ways to "SIFT" (as described above). The "four moves" from Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers will help you "SIFT." )
Note: Which of the four moves you use will depend on the context. These moves are flexible options, rather than a rigid checklist.)
When you first come across a web source, do a quick initial assessment, much like a fact-checker does. Fact-checkers don't spend too much time on a website; instead they quickly leave that site to see what others have said about the site (“lateral reading”).
(Adapted from "Four Moves," Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers, Mike Caulfield)
Later, when you determine that the site is worth your time, you can analyze the source's content more carefully.