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Research Skills

Basics of identifying false sources

Avoiding false or misleading sources in the media

The ability to tell the difference between accurate and impartial news from biased news or misinformation or disinformation (also known as fake news) is an important skill.

  Misinformation and disinformation

Misinformation is unknowingly spreading false or inaccurate information.

Disinformation is the deliberate spreading of false or inaccurate information, intended to deceive.

How to spot fake news

Steps to spotting fake news

IFLA's fake news infographic provides a range of simple steps to identify fake news. These principles are based on’s article How to Spot Fake News (Kiely & Robertson, 2016). This material has been adapted and reused under a CC BY 4.0 license.

 1  Consider the source

Click away from the story to investigate the site, its mission and its contact info.

Check the "About us" and contact information - some fake news sites state that they publish fictional stories or even satire.

 Are there any spelling mistakes, or strange domain extensions? eg. www.realnews.ausydney

 Google the name of the site - you may find reports about its authenticity.

 Avoid relying on news from social media, use reputable news sources.

 2  Read beyond

Headlines can be outrageous in an effort to get clicks. 

 Check the story on other news sites to get a more accurate account of the full story.

 Check who else is talking about the same story.

 Have the facts been verified?

 Good quality reporting will include context, and wont exclude, misrepresent or oversimplify details.

 3  Check the author

Do a quick search on the author.

 Are they real?

 Are they credible?

 Where else do they publish?

 LinkedIn is a good source for checking the credentials of authors.

 4  Check supporting sources and links to further information

 Click on links to additional information and look for anything that doesn't add up.

 Determine if the information given actually supports the story.

 A good quality article will clearly identify it's sources, and if anonymous sources are used, an explanation will be be given.

 5  Check the date

 Is there a date stamp?

 Is it current? 

 Does it accurately match the content of the story?

 6  Check your biases

Consider if your own beliefs could be affecting your judgement.

 Read other sources reporting the same news and compare. perspectives, or how the story is told.

 7  Ask the experts

Ask a librarian, or consult a fact-checking site.

Fact checking websites

Facebook and Twitter verified accounts

Blue ticks Dark blue tick icon  Light blue tick icon in Facebook and Twitter confirm that the accounts belong to the celebrity, public figure or brand they represent. These accounts can be a way of gaining information from trusted journalists and sources in real-time. 

News and newspapers via the Library