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The University of Massachusetts Amherst


General guide for library research in Nursing

Fake News Guide

Toolkit for Addressing Health Misinformation

The Office of the U.S. Surgeon General has resources to help address health misinformation.

"The Surgeon General’s Community Toolkit for Addressing Health Misinformation provides specific guidance and resources for health care providers, educators, librarians, faith leaders, and trusted community members to understand, identify, and stop the spread of health misinformation in their communities." There are currently English and Spanish versions of the Toolkit.

An Overview of "Lateral Reading"

The following videos from Mike Caulfield, who has 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: Moves for Web Evaluation

SIFT is a helpful acronym for initially evaluating source credibility. SIFT (from Mike Caulfield) stands for:

  • STOP. Pause.
    Ask yourself if you recognize the information source and if you know anything about the website or the claim's reputation. If not, use the “four moves” (described below) to learn more. If you start getting overwhelmed during the other moves, pause and remember your original purpose.
    Also take note if you have a strong reaction to the information you see (e.g., joy, pride, anger). If so, slow down before you share or use that information. We tend to react quickly and with less thought to things that evoke strong feelings. By pausing, you give your brain time to process your initial response and to analyze the information more critically. 
  • INVESTIGATE the source.
    Take a minute to identify where this information comes from and to consider the creator's expertise and agenda. If the creator appears untrustworthy, the source may not be worth your time. Look at what others have said about the source to help with your evaluation. (See the "Four Moves" below for more on investigating sources.)
    (For example, a company that sells health food products is not the best source for information about health benefits/risks of consuming coconut oil. A research study funded by a pharmaceutical company is also suspect.)
  • FIND trusted coverage.
    Sometimes it's less important to know about the source itself and more important to assess its claims. Look for credible sources, and compare information across sources in order to determine whether there appears to be a consensus.
    (Again, use the Four Moves described below to identify trusted coverage.)
  • TRACE claims, quotes, and media back to the original context.
    Sometimes online information has been removed from its original context (for example, a news story is reported on in another online publication or an image is shared on Twitter). If needed, trace the information back to the original source in order to recontextualize it.

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.

Four Moves of Fact-Checkers

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”).

  • "Check for previous work.": Has someone already fact-checked the claim or analyzed the research
    (Search the Internet for other coverage on the claim. Consider where that coverage comes from.)
  • "Go upstream to the source.": Is this the original source of the information, or is this a re-publication or an interpretation of previously published work? Are you examining the original source? If not, trace back to it.
  • "Read laterally.": What are others saying about the original source and about its claim?
    (For example, get other information about a website from other sources by searching Google for [WEBSITE URL] site: -[WEBSITE URL]
    • site:
    • site:
  • "Circle back.": If you hit a dead road, what other search terms or strategies might lead you to the information that you need?

(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.