Fact checking

Fact checking has always been a part of many material writers’ jobs, especially when writing for a publisher. However, now, more than ever, with so much fake news and deliberate misinformation, and with the increase in AI-generated content, fact checking has become more important than ever. If you are writing for a publisher, a fact-checker might even be employed to check your texts for their facts.

What is fact-checking?

Fact checking means analysing and evaluating information to make sure that it is accurate. Inaccurate information is either (a) misinformation which is usually shared by mistake, without an intention to mislead or cause harm, or (b) disinformation which is deliberately spread to cause confusion or harm.

Who should check facts?

If you write a reading text for a publisher, you will probably be asked to supply references to show where you found the information you used. These might be links to websites or pages in print books or journals. Editors then check the references and check the facts.

It is also good practice for you, as a writer to fact check yourself, especially details such as key names, dates, places and events.

Where can we start?

There are several reliable fact checking sites online (see below) but you can start by simply doing a general web search on your topic and comparing the information that comes up. If the same details are present in all of the sites you look at, it’s likely to be correct. If there are disparities, then some information is clearly incorrect.

Keep a list of reliable sources that are less likely to share misinformation. If you are writing for a publisher, they might supply you with a list they know and trust.

Fact checking sites

‘Snopes’ is one of the most widely-used sites especially, but not exclusively, for news stories.

‘Politifact’ is a Pullitzer-winning site which focuses mainly on information that comes from the USA.

‘Reporterslab.org/fact-checking/’ is a map-based database of fact-checking sites. You can clock on the map and find a site which

‘Fullfact.org’ is a UK-based fact-checking site which checks news stories and information on social media.

There is a list of fact-checking sites organised into countries on Wikipedia.

A few last tips for verifying facts

  • Besides looking for answers on fact-checking sites, try writing the topic you are researching with ‘fact check’ in a search engine. You’ll get the results of the searches that other people have researched.
  • If you need information about a specific country, look at their official government site. You’ll find key details and you’re more likely to find trustworthy links to other sites.
  • Try to find the original source for a fact instead of relying on someone else’s reporting or interpretation. For example if you use information from a website article, check the references in the article to find the author’s source. Then read the original.
  • When you find information online, check to see what other people say about the author or the website where the information is published. Ask yourself ‘Can this be trusted?’

Look through some materials you have to hand. Find some factual information and do a fact check to see whether it can be trusted! And if you are teaching, why not help your students develop their own fact-checking skills?

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