Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers
Mike Caulfield, Washington State University Vancouver
Pub Date: 2017
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The book has a nice table of contents that clearly outlines the topics included. It covers a wide range of useful techniques and tips for web read more
The book has a nice table of contents that clearly outlines the topics included. It covers a wide range of useful techniques and tips for web literacy, but is incomplete.
There are spelling errors within the text, but overall I did not find there to be any issues in the content.
I believe the text to be up-to-date, but foresee it needing to be updated frequently since the internet is constantly changing and evolving. I think the text will be easy to update or add new techniques to the existing ones. I don't see the issue of misinformation on the internet going away in the future, so a book of this nature will continue to be valuable.
The text is written in a conversational tone, making it very easy to read and understand. I think it is very accessible to students and does a good job of explaining any terminology it brings in.
I did not see any issue with consistency.
The text consisted of many small sections, making it very easy to read in small bits and to jump to the information you want to get across to students.
The book started with a brief introduction to why it was needed, moved on to good habits for web-literacy, and then started breaking it down to small, specific techniques to utilize while fact-checking. I think this made it flow really well, and made sense.
There were some issues of pages with headings only, because the image was on the next page.
There were many spelling mistakes. The book is not complete, as indicated towards the end with placeholders for future content. The author could benefit from having someone edit the book, as there is no reason the current content can't be polished.
There was not opportunity for this due to the nature of the text. I believe misinformation on the internet is a large issue in our culture, and will continue to be, so a textbook of this nature is valuable.
“As many people have noted, the web is both the largest propaganda machine ever created and The most amazing fact-checking tool ever invented.” – Mike Caulfield, pages 3-4. I teach a weekend enrichment course covering the basics of critical thinking skills with an emphasis in analyzing journalism articles. I was hoping this book would help me take my class to the next level. This book is written in a very conversational tone, making it incredibly accessible and relatable to college students. I appreciated the many practical skills presented to become a strong fact-checker, and even videos included to help walk students through some techniques. The book is not complete though, there are many “place-holder” articles near the end, and there are many grammatical errors. Overall, I think the text can be valuable to teach these tips and tricks of internet fact-checking and that it will be a good resource once completed.
The book covers a wide variety of topics on fact checking on the web, and some related subjects. Not being an expert in this field, difficult to read more
The book covers a wide variety of topics on fact checking on the web, and some related subjects. Not being an expert in this field, difficult to say if his coverage was comprehensive.
The book presented different views and aspects for each subject covered, so it came across as unbiased. However, not being an expert in this field, I cannot pass judgment on the book being accurate and error-free.
The book is very timely and therefore quite relevant. However this is a rapidly evolving field, and so making updates is essential to the longevity of the book.
The book is easy to read and the author is a good writer. It is quite clear and logical in presentation.
The first half of the book was quite more detailed and organized than the second half. It seems like the author ran out of time or intended to more material to the second half. The second half is more sparse in content, and more like an outline for material still to be completed.
The chapters are quite modular and can be selected or reordered based on the instructor's need. However,note the comment above about consistency, which makes the second half of the book less useful as modules.
Once again the first part was very well organized, flowed well, and substantial in discussion. The second half was less so.
The book had adequate number and variety of images and examples to illustrate the topic. Many of these were directly from the web as appropriate for the subject matter. However some images were large with smaller insets that were difficult to see or read.
The author had consistently used correct grammar, and was a good writer, that made this book an easy read.
No cultural insensitivity were observed, Culture, race, or ethnicities did not even come to mind.
I choose this book to read because I wanted to learn more about fact checking on the web and mass media. It is a very timely topic for today, especially with the controversial issues of fake news, propaganda and interference using the media in internal affairs, etc. In that regard, it has educated me about this area. The book provided different resources, and even provided some tricks.
In academic research, it is not uncommon for students to ask educators to assist them with source evaluation. This is a critical skill that students read more
In academic research, it is not uncommon for students to ask educators to assist them with source evaluation. This is a critical skill that students want to master. Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers is a practical textbook that provides both a framework and strategies for evaluating internet sources. The author introduces four methods for investigating the accuracy of web content, supporting each unit with detailed instructions, concrete examples, and learning activities. For novice searchers, the text will introduce resources and techniques for revealing source credibility. And for experienced librarians and instructors, the text provides a few new tricks, as well as fresh approaches to teaching old subject matter. It was encouraging, for example, to read a web literacy book that makes no mention of the CRAAP Test. While the book lacks an index and glossary, its table of contents is thorough and the text is keyword searchable if read online.
The text is accurate in its depiction of the media landscape and the difficulties associated with fact-checking information on the internet. It deals fairly with Wikipedia, fake news, viral media, media bias, memes, and other hot-button topics for educators. The author’s treatment of Wikipedia was especially balanced.
For LIS professionals who teach information literacy, the text offers real strategies and activities for fact-checking web content that can be successfully deployed in class today. All links to websites, images, and tweets are in working order. That said, this type of practical textbook will require frequent updates to ensure functioning of web tools, availability of URLs, and subject relevancy. The author, for example, draws heavily on news sources from the 2016 US presidential election. The text will need to regular revision to remain on-trend with the ever changing media landscape.
Excepting one or two phrases (e.g. “information literacy” “web-based paper mills”), the text avoids technical language. The occasional use of jargon could be corrected with additional information. Assuming an undergraduate audience, the reader stands to gain from brief explanations of information literacy and predatory publishing. Overall the author has written a highly accessible text that uses numerous concrete examples to make its points.
The style, voice, and language of this text are consistent throughout. Chapters and ideas follow in a progressive order, making reference to one another as appropriate given their place in the overall scheme.
The text presents four strategies for fact-checking web sources. The strategies are categorized into discrete sections, each of which can be pulled out and incorporated into coursework as an independent unit. The chapters contained within each of the four sections, however, would be less effective as independent units because they build on one another.
The organization and structure of the text are excellent.
The text contains minor formatting issues. There are multiple blank pages between sections and wasted space on pages where images were bumped to the next sheet. (Note: I reviewed the text in its PDF version.)
The text contain a handful of typos. Otherwise it was well written.
This is a how-to guide written from a US perspective.
The aim of the book is to support students with fact checking online sources in a practical and engaging way and I think it achieves this aim read more
The aim of the book is to support students with fact checking online sources in a practical and engaging way and I think it achieves this aim well. Much of the introduction resonated with my experiences of teaching students and this is a useful guide for librarians as well as students. It does assume a basic knowledge of the internet and search engines, but I don't think this detracts from the value of the book as the vast majority of readers would have this knowledge. The chapters of Going upstream and Reading laterally were especially good with clear examples and reasons why it is so important to verify what students are reading. Students are generally lacking in these skills and this book addresses these issues well for secondary school, college or undergraduate students. I did feel the section on journal impact factors was vastly simplified and a little confusing, but this is a general text aimed at all students and not specific to researchers, so I can see the dilemma for the author. .
The content is free from errors and I can see no issues with accuracy.
The content of the book is very timely with the proliferation of 'fake news' or our awareness of it. It does use many examples from the 2016 American presidential election, but at the time this was written, this is a rich vein of examples to mine. Giving students the tools to be able to verify online content and be aware of bias and inaccurate reporting is essential in the age where a significant amount of information is consumed online, so I can see this being relevant for some time to come.
The text is written in a chatty, informal style which is generally easy to understand and read. Students would hopefully find this easy to understand and absorb. There was not any jargon use which was not explained satisfactorily e.g. 'reading laterally'. Again as time passes the examples will become less relevant, and so the clarity may lessen. So it would be useful to have more examples of a less political nature to broaden the appeal and longevity.
The text is consistent in its use of terminology.
The bitesize nature of the book does lend itself well to being embedded into courses/modules. Each section is concise and there are exercises which could be used to teach digital literacy skills.
The chapters are bitesize and each leads onto each other. Presented in 6 parts with the contents broken down further into sections each detailing different tools and examples to verify facts. It would have be nice to have a concluding section as the book ends rather unsatisfactorily with the unfinished chapters and no explanation of these or when they will be completed.
No issues with the interface, all the text and images loaded without issue and were clear and legible. The incomplete sections at the end of the book could be better explained as it first appears as if there is something missing, when in fact, this is the nature of this section.
No concerns regarding the grammar.
The examples are largely based on the 2016 American presidential election, although not offensive, it is quite monocultural and so from a UK perspective could be of less interest to readers. It will quickly date, so I would hope that new examples would be added.
This is an easily accessible text for students to read and understand the issues and around fake news, social media and online content and offers useful techniques to verify information. It is also an informative text for Librarians involved in Digital Literacy to use as a jumping off point to create materials for their students or to use the exercises in teaching.
It should be noted that web literacy here is meant as a specific subset of broader concepts such as information literacy or digital literacy. The read more
It should be noted that web literacy here is meant as a specific subset of broader concepts such as information literacy or digital literacy. The text covers this specific "slice" of literacy well and provides concrete and specific examples of how to do fact-checking. This is a critical set of skills students need and one students request, but are often glossed over in typical information literacy instruction. That said, the text is not situated or anchored to the broader information literacy frameworks, standards, or larger conversations that surround these issues. It's a how-to guide for learning and practicing discrete, online, fact-checking skills. It is highly on-trend for today and should be part of any information literacy curriculum, but not the sole text used. There is no glossary or index, however the chapters are short and titles descriptive in the table of contents. There's an unfinished section in the book that was included but a conclusion and answers to the activities are not provided.
Content is accurate overall (that's one of the main points of the book!), and the author tries to be balanced and keep content objective or contextualized. I loved that this author included a section about our affective domain responses to the subject. Due to the nature of the topic, the politicization of the word "fake news", and distrust of the media at the moment, there are likely to be some who find some bias in this.
Since this text is related to the internet, using search engines, and social media--obviously a moving target to cover--updates will certainly need to be made. The author chose very recent examples, but it can be assumed that new examples could be popped in as time goes on. URLs will need to be checked for validity as well.
When reading from the perspective of a typical undergraduate, I found some uses of jargon and assumptions, which could be explained more thoroughly. I also found that some topics didn't have much background information provided. There were also some vague references to "the president" and a citation that simply said "from a trump speech". Part of the way through the book, it became clear that this was a textbook that was part of class that the author teaches, which explains some of the assumptions made in the text.
The text was consistent in framework and terminology, although some chapters ended abruptly and others did not. The numbering system of the contents some seemed a little inconsistent with some things being given their own section and others not.
The chapters are brief, discrete, and highly modular, so it wouldn't be difficult to update with fresh content when needed, but also to assign as needed.
The overall structure and organization are clear and logical. I liked the strategies and tactics hierarchy that the author used.
In the PDF, there were numerous blank pages and some formatting wonkiness.
Largely error-free but I spotted a few typos. It could benefit from copyediting.
I didn't find this text to be offensive in any way, but that said, I am a white, educated, middle class American. Some examples are U.S.-centric and there are some general references to liberals and conservatives, so I suppose some could potentially find fault in that, or, not understand the nuances if they are not familiar with U.S. politics or U.S. history.
Overall, I loved the content of this text and find it highly relevant. I plan to use parts of it in the future.
This book convincingly argues that fact-checking on the web is a seldom taught but necessary skill. A variety of web literacy techniques are read more
This book convincingly argues that fact-checking on the web is a seldom taught but necessary skill. A variety of web literacy techniques are explored, using specific strategies with examples that are easy to replicate or practice in class, small groups, or individually. Because this is an instruction manual for beginning researchers, there are short discussions in several sections covering why a specific skill or way of thinking is important to all web users. A few examples of such discussions are seen in the chapters "Building a Fact-Checking Habit by Checking Your Emotions" and "Stupid Journal Tricks." Academic journal evaluation and scholarly searches are also considered when discussing more advanced research options. A thorough table of contents and introductory chapter list and discuss the areas covered. Four fact-checking strategies are offered, but only three strategies have a dedicated section with samples/ examples/activities. An additional section is needed to more completely discuss Strategy #4 which is labeled "Circle Back." The final chapter is incomplete. There is no index or glossary.
The text maintains accuracy, error-free discussions, and unbiased stances, while teaching how to think about and evaluate these exact qualities. This book presents a balanced approach in its own use of examples. Some examples trace politically conservative claims made during the most recent presidential elections. However, politics is not the only area of potential interest used for providing examples. Especially revealing is consideration of errors published in The New York Times during the Iraq War, in spite of that newspaper being considered authoritative and liberal by many.
Examples and images from the news of the day can easily be replaced by instructors to present updated, or more relevant issues. In fact, asking students to choose their own topics is a possible choice. What will never become irrelevant or outdated are the transferable critical thinking skills being internalized as students are asked to think about their thinking, grow new mental habits, and learn practical skills.
One of the best aspects of this title is the friendly tone and light humor. This readable approach protects the longer and more serious discussions from recognizable textbook weariness. Clarity could be improved if Strategy #4, "Circle Back," could be explained in its own section, with examples or activities. It would be an opportunity for process evaluation (of Strategies #1-#3) and follow-up.
The text is internally consistent.
Modularity is a strength of the text due to short sections, clear examples, and suggestions for activities that can be easily replicated, reorganized, or replaced.
An improvement to the organization and flow was mentioned above: Strategy #4 is important and needs attention and space in the text. Also, "Part VI. Field Guide (Unfinished Articles)" is awkward. Rather than a listing of unfinished articles, a concluding summary of topics covered and a conversation about the need for further topics to be explored would be less abbreviated and bring a logical balance to the strong introductory chapters.
Images, screenshots, and links all worked as expected. Navigation between chapters, sections, or pages could be improved to prevent scrolling page by page. Missing at the beginning of each section is the part number, although the word "Part" is included.
Three errors were found: missing words on page 106 and 121, and an incorrect word on page 15.
The text is culturally inclusive and examples include a variety of backgrounds. Politics, being useful for current fact-finding examples, is inclusive of several candidates, parties, and biases. Health claims from various viewpoints are also examined.
The topics and skills analyzed and practiced are of great interest to librarians and instructors. I appreciate the lists, examples, and ability of this text to introduce issues of fact-finding on either an introductory level or on a more advanced level of exploration. A professional editor may have had suggestions for improving organization. Errors may have been corrected. We want our students to have the highest quality textbooks, no matter the format.
The author opens this text by saying this is a practical guide to aims to help readers/students get closer to the truth (pg. 5). The text, overall, read more
The author opens this text by saying this is a practical guide to aims to help readers/students get closer to the truth (pg. 5). The text, overall, does a good job of this mission. It covers many skills and attitudes to take when considering web content and evaluating these sources. Throughout the text, the author shows us reading one article simply isn't enough, and provides reasoning and strategies to help make these techniques a normal routine when on the web. The text uses current examples from the 2016 election to help frame these strategies while also providing activities for students to complete to get hands on experience with web content. However, the author does make some big assumptions about students' knowledge and understanding of some advanced web skills and pros and cons of both web browsers and web search engines. Because there is no glossary, this becomes difficult for students to find solutions or keep up with the author if they do not come in with the same knowledge level the author assumes.
The content contained in this text is accurate, error-free, and highlights examples where bias is contained. This text also asks readers early on (pg. 7) to consider their emotions as they read media, articles, and new sources.
Librarians know that patrons and students we work with use the internet to find information, read news, and make decisions. Because of this, this text is relevant and provides real content that students will have encountered before reading this text. The examples in this text focus primarily on web content written before, during, and after the 2016 United State's election. While these examples will resonate with students currently, in a few years these examples might not have the same impact factor as it does right now. Additionally, due to the fast moving pace of the internet, links can die and change over time (which is noted in a few cases throughout the text by the author). Especially for those interested in using the activities, links should be double checked before giving to a class, to ensure all links are functional and serve their purpose.
With the premise of an "unabashedly practical guide" (pg. 4), this text cuts right to the chase. While it is easy to read and has a conversational tone to it, there are sections where this briefness might create an oversimplification of some of these skills (and the practice required to continue to get better at web evaluation). The author does make some assumptions about what the student already knows about web searching, web browsers, web search engines (such as knowledge about Duck Duck Go), algorithms, etc. -- currently the book has no glossary or appendix to help expand on those foundational skills and ideas that students might lack when first reading the book. The lack of the glossary or appendix distorts the clarity of this text.
Text is consistent throughout with its terminology and framework.
The text is readily divisible, especially some of the activities contained throughout the text. This could be useful for librarians or instructors who want to do a small section of a book as part of a single-lesson or unit. However, the first part of the text does build on four steps for web evaluation, which will help with the activities contained throughout the book. If using this text in the small, digestible chunks, it will be worth it to consider if any content will be needed for students.
The topics in the text are organized in a logical fashion, with many chapters building on content in previous chapters. The table of content clearly highlights the organization of the text, and readers can see how content is divided. After building up a set of skills, the author ends the text with a field guide, containing other strategies and more skills to add to the evaluation process.
All links work throughout the book, images are easy to see and understand, and overall, the interface is clean and simple.
The textbook contains no visible grammatical errors.
Text is not culturally insensitive or offensive. The examples are varied (within the context of the 2016 presidential election) while also acknowledging non-US centric sources for certain types of fact checking and newspapers of record.
This book provides a wealth of examples (with links to the author's personal website) that could be useful for a variety of classroom contexts. Because the book has a conversational tone, it is easy to read and grasp the major points that could benefit students' web searching and evaluation techniques.
This text covers the area of web literacy appropriately. It is comprehensive in terms of searching the web. Topics such as scholarly journals are read more
This text covers the area of web literacy appropriately. It is comprehensive in terms of searching the web. Topics such as scholarly journals are touched on lightly, but the focus is on web searching. The table of contents is thorough, and the hyperlinked page numbers accurately take you to each section. Additionally, bookmarks have been added for each topic within the chapters; leaving the bookmarks panel open allows the reader to navigate effortlessly through the book. This is a very practical guide, giving strategies, examples, and activities for students to try out themselves.
The content is accurate and almost completely error free. I think I caught a couple minor typographical errors, such as an extra period at the end of a sentence, but virtually nothing that would detract from the quality of the text. The politically related examples seemed to use more examples from Trump’s presidential campaign than from any other candidate, possibly because it was written during the time of Trump's candidacy, and possibly because there were so many examples available to choose from. In that sense, it can seem slightly biased, but I didn’t feel like that was the focus of the whole book. There were numerous other examples that were not politically focused.
The content is mostly up-to date, but it might be advisable to do a thorough review of links on an annual basis to keep the text updated. Links are easily identified and can be checked and updated without much problem. Out of the many student activities, I only found one example that was out of date—there was a link to a Twitter account that had been suspended. This can be a learning experience in and of itself to demonstrate that social media accounts can come and go very quickly.
The text is quite readable, written in lucid accessible prose. It does not overwhelm the reader with incomprehensible jargon or discipline-specific technology. When the author asks the reader to use a specific type of search to find the data they need, they provide an example from which the reader can imitate and apply the search protocol to find similar information in a different search situation.
The framework and terminology of this text is consistent, formatted into short chapters. Each chapter provides instruction and explanation, as well as examples that demonstrate the concept described. In most cases, there are activities that students can do to apply the learning in the topic for themselves.
The text is easily divisible into smaller chunks of information. It covers a wide range of methods and areas of web literacy that can be presented separately in separate sections. I have easily adapted sections of this content for instruction in my classes without any trouble at all.
The topics in the book flow nicely from one subject to the next. I thought the organization was done very well, moving from basic information to more complex concepts and methods, building on the previous information provided.
There was one format issue that bothered me a little. After the title page of each new chapter, the rest of that page was blank, and each chapter title page was followed by another blank page. It just seemed like a long way to page down an empty screen, but after I figured out it was deliberate and consistent, I didn’t pay as much attention to it. Other than that, the text is free of other issues related to navigation, distorted image, or other display characteristics. It is clear, straightforward, and it had no other distracting elements that I was aware of.
The text contains no grammatical errors or misspellings. It reads clearly and easily.
I found no culturally insensitive content in this text.
As the table of contents specifies, there are six unfinished topics at the end of the text. I would like to see the last few topics completed because I think they would be relevant and very helpful. I understand the need for the unfinished topics, as technology changes quickly, and some of the methods that have previously been used are becoming obsolete or not as useful. For example, the topic about ICANN’s WHOIS service is partially completed, but another method will need to be added to this topic besides ICANN. With ICANN, a reader can check to see who is the registered owner of a website, but it is becoming less useful and will probably eventually not be useful at all because so many site registrants are now paying for a registration mask to shield ownership information. In general, I see this text as something that could be updated almost every year, as I mentioned briefly before.
This text comprehensive in it's coverage of how to evaluate the vast reaches of the internet, at least in the scope of popular websites, social read more
This text comprehensive in it's coverage of how to evaluate the vast reaches of the internet, at least in the scope of popular websites, social media, and some academic sources. The table of contents is well laid out and a user can quickly navigate to a section of interest. There are six sections to the 194 page document, a good amount to effectively cover evaluation of internet information, especially from an undergraduate or high school student perspective. While this book covers several relevant topics in fact-checking the internet, it is lacking in depth of information in some sections, most notably in the sections related to academic publishing, journal impact factors, and using Google Scholar as a tool for checking author credibility. Though not a reason to throw out the next, research librarians be warned, additional resources will be needed to accurately cover evaluation of academic resources. There is no index or glossary in this text. However, the nature of the information provided is not technical nor theoretical, so users will likely not require an index or glossary. The table of contents is robust enough to guide users to the section of interest.
The content of this text is error free, there are no glaring grammatical or spelling mistakes. It is written in easily digestible, conversational language, free from jargon or overly detailed explanations. Although the author does use some content examples from the 2016 presidential election, the author does not present false information or claim a political stance. All potentially biased information is included to illustrate various fact checking examples.
This text is heavily rooted in real-world internet stories, sensations and fact checking examples. Examples chosen will not quickly go into obsolescence, as they are used to illustrate how to go about fact checking internet sources. As new tools are developed or trends in website literacy arise, this resource will be easily modified with additional relevant sections.
The text is written in clear, concise, language, I have no concerns with the prose. However, in some sections, the author's clarity is lacking. The language becomes too conversational and a reader or student not well versed in internet fact checking resources may become lost in the explanation. The best example of this lack of clarity can be found in Chapter 24, "Finding High Quality Secondary Sources", where the author attempts to explain finding additional scholarship on a topic in one short paragraph.
The book is consistent throughout in style, terminology, and layout.
This text is incredibly modular. It is only 194 pages yet it is divided into 6 sections and 42 chapters or topics. Each topic is very short and concise, making this resource a great choice for information literacy librarians or class room instructors who only wish to cover a specific aspect of fact checking. Some topics are exercises, which could easily stand alone.
This text is presented in a clear and logical fashion. My only concern is that the text abruptly ends with a mixed topic section. There is no conclusion or wrap up of the skills addressed in the text.
No concerns with the interface. Links provided in text worked, images were clear, and navigation was simple.
No grammatical errors.
No concerns with this text's cultural relevance.
This text is a valuable open resource for teaching students ways to fact check the internet. Although it is short in length and at times does not go incredibly deep into individual topics, it has many great examples which would be valuable, especially to librarian's in an information literacy session.
This text assumes that the student has a familiarity with the Internet and basic search engine queries. I have found that today’s undergraduates have read more
This text assumes that the student has a familiarity with the Internet and basic search engine queries. I have found that today’s undergraduates have a greater level of comfort with tablet and smartphone interfaces than more historically conventional uses of computer technology, such as the mouse and keyboard. For this reason, I believe the book would improve with a brief introduction to the elements of search engine queries, such as Boolean operators and advanced operators, before proceeding into its more nuanced analyses. Furthermore, the text also assumes a working knowledge of claims. An instructor teaching out of this book would find great relief in having a chapter that provided an overview of the various types of claims, so that students know how to recognize assertions that require additional support, as well as a review of the most frequently encountered logical fallacies, particularly the appeal to authority, the genetic fallacy, and the straw man.
The purpose of the text is to assist students in “fact checking,” which involves showing students how to examine different sources and seek the highest authoritative source before assuming a claim is true. There is immense value in the author’s emphasis on “going upstream” when seeking source information, and not solely relying on “reporting on reporting.” Most students rely upon heavily summarized sources, so teaching them the value of reading original sources and reading laterally cannot be overemphasized. However, the text may rely upon authoritative journalistic sources too heavily. The author suggests that iif an acknowledged journalistic authority, such as the New York Times, verifies a statement as factual, than it is unnecessary to further examine lateral sources. As an example, on page 17, when referring to a statement made by Donald Trump, the author states, “Going to the Washington Post site we find out that this claim is for all intents and purposes true. We don’t need to go further, unless we want to.”
The book’s subject is timely and has substantial relevance, given the proliferation of information available on the Internet and the need for individuals to be able to assess the factual validity of claims. Given the popularization of alternative forms of media, and the fact that conventional journalism is increasingly losing its role as a primary source of information for people, individuals must increasingly be web literate to discern inaccurate reporting. As relevant as the concepts presented in this text, the longevity of its content may be in question. The examples used throughout the book are so closely tied to the U.S. presidential election of 2016 that they will likely need to be modified for the 2017-2018 academic year.
The book is presented in an accessible prose which students should find entertaining to read. While the text provides multiple avenues of checking facts, it generally only provides a single example for every approach. Students may find multiple examples for each section helpful.
The book is consistent throughout in its use of terminology.
The text is highly modular, although each chapter builds on the one preceding it, and assumes that the student has read previous chapters. The modularity of the text could be improved by providing a step-by-step process within each section that would allow a new reader to immediately use a particular method of going upstream or finding lateral sources.
The text is divided into parts that revolve around the themes of looking for previous work online, going upstream, and reading laterally. Within each part are sections which focus on the use of different online tools and advanced search engine queries to assess factual validity.
The text’s interface allows a user to click on each chapter within the table of contents and go directly there, which is extremely useful. There are minor typographical errors, such as a lack of numbering on the pages identifying different “Parts” of the book which separate the thematically organized chapters, and the incomplete sections at the end of the book.
The text is free of grammatical errors.
Given that the purpose of this text is to determine the factual validity of claims, it is understandable that it places a heavy emphasis on statements made during one of the most divisive presidential elections in recent American history. However, nearly every political example assumes the reader holds the same bias as the authors, and I believe that this may have the unintended effect of alienating students. Conservatives are far from the only individuals in the American political establishment that have made misleading or hyperbolic claims, and the text does a disservice to students in presenting such one-sided examples of “fact checking.” There are many examples of biased reporting, excessive editorializing, or misrepresentation of information outside of the American conservative establishment. Had the author included even a single example where a liberal figurehead made a questionable assertion, it would be at least a nominal gesture of objectivity. At a time when political divisions within the United States are at elevated levels, I believe this text has the potential for creating a divided classroom.
This text fulfills its promise to provide students with engaging, relevant, and practical methods to verify information shared on the internet. It read more
This text fulfills its promise to provide students with engaging, relevant, and practical methods to verify information shared on the internet. It lays out a logical and digestible plan to assist students uncover truth, or at least trace the origin and veracity of information presented, online. The text ends with a section containing various promising yet unfinished articles (some only a sentence in length). No index or glossary is provided. I feel that including either would have served better to signal the conclusion of a complete work; as it is, the text simply trails off into ideas for future content (The second-to-last section, 42/Advanced Wikipedia, simply promises, “Here we’ll note some of the tracks savvy readers of Wikipedia use to get the full story behind a Wikipedia article: revision histories, talk-page discussions, profile-checking, etc.” while the final section of the text, 43/Promoted Tweets, appears to be 2 or 3 images with no accompanying text, explanation, or pledge).
The content is accurate, error-free and unbiased which is particularly important for a text which addresses publication bias and accuracy (“Evaluating News Sources”, p.118). The text provides examples across the political and journalism spectrum. Much of the content supports guidelines and knowledge practices detailed in the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education (Association of College and Research Libraries). In particular, content that aligns with the framework encourages students to critically analyze a)information given its context/ecosystem and b)what constitutes authority or verifiable expertise. The text also encourages its readers to detach from personal bias. A section in the introduction notes the importance of checking one’s emotions in an effort to curtail the emotionally-charged sharing of unchecked internet content. It also links to a report on research that investigates which emotions contribute to content ‘going viral’.
The content is up-to-date. The activity directions and selected links were valid and operational. Illustrated step-by-step directions mention the browser used and include highlighting to indicate location in the process. Although the internet is dynamic (and web pages or associated technologies can be here today and gone tomorrow), it should be easy to make updates as necessary by replacing links or images.
The text is written in accessible prose. It is easy to understand for instructors and students alike. The text provides definitions and context for jargon/technical terminology (for example, “syndication”, “reading laterally”, and “impact factor”). The text is written informally in a conversational tone. The information and style would fit in a workshop or tutorial.
The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework.
A course using this text can proceed linearly through the content as presented. The text is easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections that can be assigned at different points within the course. Additionally, content (especially activities and exercises) can be realigned with various subunits of a course without presenting much disruption to the reader.
The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion. The text is organized according to the verification process it hopes to impart on students - the text introduces four strategies in Part I and elaborates on each strategy in subsequent Parts.
The text is free of significant interface issues, including navigation problems. Text includes working external links. The images and screenshots included are clear; all text is readable within the images. I would have appreciated internal hyperlinks or anchors to easily navigate (jump) to topical sections in the text rather than scrolling or advancing one page at a time.
The text contains no obvious grammatical errors.
The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive.
Fake News. I can remember when that was an oxymoron. Nevertheless, it is increasingly important that consumers of information be vigilant. Every course I teach has a lesson on information literacy. Digital literacy is a key component to information literacy practices and this book fills the gap left in familiar discussions (between ingesting web information and creating information online). The text focuses on evaluating web information. This is an important skill for students to develop. The text acknowledges how plentifully and frequently information comes across digital natives’ social media feeds. It recognizes the information seeking behaviors of this population and provides relevant suggestions, such as harnessing the power of the right-click for Google Searches, noting the benefits of Wikipedia (footnotes!), and verifying Twitter accounts. It offers students a pragmatic approach to fact-checking. In doing so, it adds a valuable resource to the arsenal of instructors who crusade for critical thinking on all information frontiers (including academic and social), and is similar to the message Markham Nolan presents in the TED talk (“How to Separate Fact and Fiction Online”) I’ve shared in some of the classes I’ve taught. https://www.ted.com/talks/markham_nolan_how_to_separate_fact_and_fiction_online
Table of Contents
Part I. Four Strategies and a Habit
1. Why This Book?
2. Four Strategies
3. Building a Fact-Checking Habit by Checking Your Emotions
Part II. Look for Previous Work
4. How to Use Previous Work
5. Fact-checking Sites
Part III. Go Upstream
7. Go Upstream to Find the Source
8. Identifying Sponsored Content
9. Activity: Spot Sponsored Content
10. Understanding Syndication
11. Tracking the Source of Viral Content
12. Tracking the Source of Viral Photos
13. Using Google Reverse Image Search
14. Filtering by Time and Place to Find the Original
15. Activity: Trace Viral Photos Upstream
Part IV. Read Laterally
16. What "Reading Laterally" Means
17. Evaluating a Website or Publication's Authority
18. Basic Techniques: Domain Searches, WHOIS
19. Activity: Evaluate a Site
20. Stupid Journal Tricks
21. Finding a Journal's Impact Factor
22. Using Google Scholar to Check Author Expertise
23. How to Think About Research
24. Finding High Quality Secondary Sources
25. Choosing Your Experts First
26. Evaluating News Sources
27. National Newspapers of Record
28. Activity: Expert or Crank?
29. Activity: Find Top Authorities for a Subject
Part V. Field Guide
30. Verifying Twitter Identity
31. Activity: Verify a Twitter Account
32. Using the Wayback Machine to Check for Page Changes
33. Finding Out When a Page Was Published Using Google
34. Using Google Books to Track Down Quotes
35. Searching TV Transcripts with the Internet Archive
36. Using Buzzsumo To Find Highly Viral Stories
Part VI. Field Guide (Unfinished Articles)
37. Unfinished Articles
38. Finding Out Who Owns a Server
39. Finding Out When a Site Was Launched
40. Avoiding Confirmation Bias In Searches
41. Finding the Best Possible Opposition
42. Advanced Wikipedia
43. Promoted Tweets
About the Book
The web gives us many such strategies and tactics and tools, which, properly used, can get students closer to the truth of a statement or image within seconds. For some reason we have decided not to teach students these specific techniques. As many people have noted, the web is both the largest propaganda machine ever created and the most amazing fact-checking tool ever invented. But if we haven’t taught our students those capabilities is it any surprise that propaganda is winning?
This is an unabashedly practical guide for the student fact-checker. It supplements generic information literacy with the specific web-based techniques that can get you closer to the truth on the web more quickly.
About the Contributors
Mike Caulfield is currently the director of blended and networked learning at Washington State University Vancouver, and the editor of the New Horizons column for the OpenCourseWare Consortium.
Before that he was employed by Keene State College as an instructional designer, and by MIT as director of community outreach for the OpenCourseWare Consortium.