In a world in which fake news exists, you cannot be a passive consumer of information and expect to encounter only the truth. Academics have to be critical of biases and falsehoods that exist in information, especially in news sources that cover controversial or political topics. A major part of academic work is learning to critically assess information. This portion of the guide will help you identify fake news by asking questions, knowing the technical characteristics of online news sources, and conducting contextual research.
Fake news, and especially politically motivated fake news, has some clear characteristics that make it different from other types of misinformation, including satire and propaganda. Identify fake news by asking yourself:
Different formats of media come with their own conventions. Most fake news that you will encounter disguises itself as legitimate online news, so knowing the conventions of legitimate online news sources will help you understand how fake news differs.
Fake news creates an immediate, emotional reaction in readers. It doesn’t stand up to scrutiny or cold, hard logic. For this reason, research is the best way to disprove fake news and to gain a better, more contextualized understanding of an issue.
Since fake news is not a new phenomenon, these are excellent guides far older than this one that can improve your critical thinking skills. The PARCA test is a useful acronym to use when doing research, and the ARCL Framework for Information Literacy is an in depth guide on the importance of critical reading.