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Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers

(12 reviews)

Mike Caulfield, Washington State University Vancouver

Pub Date: 2017

Publisher: Independent

Language: English

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Reviewed by Pam Gladis, Associate Professor of Library, Southwest Minnesota State University on 12/20/18

The book is comprehensive when considering web literacy in the context of reading and evaluating information found on the web. Other aspects of web literacy are not covered (e.g., synthesizing, designing, contributing, etc.). The author provides... read more


Reviewed by Britney Mann, Senior Academic Advisor I and Instructor, Oklahoma State University on 5/22/18

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. read more


Reviewed by Luis Occena, Associate Professor, University of Missouri on 5/22/18

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. read more


Reviewed by Amy Barlow, Assistant Professor and Reference Librarian, Rhode Island College on 3/28/18

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... read more


Reviewed by Emily Rimland, Associate Librarian, Information Literacy Librarian and Learning Technologies Coordinator, Penn State on 2/2/18

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... read more


Reviewed by Juliana Boner, Academic Librarian, Anoka-Ramsey Community College, Cambridge on 2/2/18

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... read more


Reviewed by Michelle Walker, Liaison Librarian, University of Sunderland on 2/2/18

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... read more


Reviewed by Hailley Fargo, Student Engagement Librarian, Penn State University on 2/2/18

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... read more


Reviewed by Nina Battistini, MLIS, PhD, Librarian, Alexandria Technical & Community College on 2/2/18

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... read more


Reviewed by Danisha Baker-Whitaker, MLIS, PhD Student, North Carolina State University on 6/21/17

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... read more


Reviewed by Daniel Ayala, Instructor, Chemeketa Community College on 6/21/17

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... read more


Reviewed by Lauren Goode, Digital Services Librarian, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, William & Mary on 6/21/17

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... read more


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
6. Wikipedia
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'sAuthority
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 AuthorExpertise
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.