There’s a theme that runs through all of these fact-checking moves: They are about reconstructing the necessary context to verify, understand, and interpret sources of information that we may encounter in academic, professional, and personal research.
One piece of context is the author or publisher. What’s their expertise? What’s their agenda? This will require investigating the source.
When it comes to claims, a key piece of context includes whether they are accepted or contested. By scanning for other coverage, you can see what the consensus is on a claim and perhaps find a better source.
Finally, when evidence is presented through a certain lens—whether a quote or an image or a scientific finding—sometimes it helps to reconstruct the original context in which the evidence was presented.
In some cases these techniques will show you that claims are false, or that sources are misleading or even deceptive. But in the majority of cases they do something just as important: They reestablish the context that the web so often strips away, allowing for more meaningful engagement with information.
Image: “Rainbow Frequency” by Ricardo Gomez Angel is in the Public Domain, CC0
Text adapted from “SIFT (The Four Moves)” by Mike Caulfield, licensed under CC BY 4.0