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LING 281: Fake News paper

This course specific guide is designed to support your research for Williams LING 291 paper

LING 281

Academic Reading and Writing for Second Language Learners and International Students

Links and handouts used in class

Recommended Databases for Background Research

How to recognize and read a scholarly article

Simple strategy for finding information

Here is a summary of what we practiced during the class session.

Step 1: Construct a search strategy.

  • State your question as a sentence.
  • Identify key concepts that must be present in the information source; use the connector AND.
  • Consider related terms that might be used for a key concept; use the connector OR
  • Use truncation symbol for word variations; use an (asterisk) or most databases; Lexis/Nexis uses  ! (exclamation mark).
  • Use “ “ (double quotation) for phrases. Don’t overuse phrase searching. Consider proximity connectors for phrase variation: n# or w#.

Step 2: Determine the type of information you need and where you might find it.

Available through the library.

Use OneSearch or the library databases to locate:

  • Books

    Historical, scholarly, research, summary and in-depth 
  • Journals

    Scholarly, research, in-depth, bibliography
  • Government Publications

    Research, primary, statistics
  • Magazines

    Current, popular culture, opinions, summary
  • Journals

    Scholarly, research, in-depth, bibliography
  • Newspapers

    Current events, popular, opinions
  • Trade/Professional

    Practitioner perspective, trends, products, technique

Available in library databases 

  • Data resources including country, industry, and company reports
  • Case law and legal information 
  • Tests and Measures, and research methodology
  • Images and videos

Use Internet search tool (Google, Bing, etc.)

Web/Internet

  • Current, expert and popular opinion

Use Google Scholar

  • Journals- Scholarly, research, in-depth, bibliography

Step 3: Evaluate your information using the 5W + 1H model or SIFT method (for websites)  

  • Use the Advanced Evaluation Techniques tab on the left.

Why you need to evaluate your sources

"Don't just teach your children to read ... teach them to question what they read, teach them to question everything."
          --George Carlin, American stand-up comedian, actor, social critic and author (1937-2008)
  • Creating Web sites is easy, cheap (sometimes free), unregulated, and unmonitored.
  • The burden is on the reader to establish authorship, validity, timeliness, and integrity.
  • It’s easier to be taken in than we think.  Read about the attempt in Aliso Viejo to ban water.
  • New ways to manipulate information:
    • Astroturf Web sites & astroturf lobbying; artificial grassroots campaigns.(1)  Read about Faces of Coal and Count on Coal examples of astroturffing.
    • Crowdturfing; ”weaponized crowdsourcing” with large scale paid shills/ringers/plants to spread malicious URLs, rumors and misinformation, manipulate search engines.(2)  Read about the TripAdvisor example.
    • Echo Chamber advocacy: "information, ideas, or beliefs are amplified or reinforced by transmission and repetition inside an "enclosed" system, where different or competing views are censored, disallowed or otherwise underrepresented."(3)  Read the Phillip Morris memo describing this type of advocacy.
    • Fake news: Websites and social media that intentionally post disinformation, hoaxes, propaganda.  Read Nieman Reports, Election '16: Lessons for Journalism for an ongoing series of practitioner articles and Journalist's Resource, Fake news and the spread of misinformation for a list of peer-reviewed articles.

Caveat lector!  Let the reader beware!


(1) "Public relations' role in manufacturing artificial grass roots coalitions." Public Relations Quarterly 43.220-23. Find Full Text

(2) Caverlee, J., & Lee, K. (2015). Weaponized Crowdsourcing: An Emerging Threat and Potential Countermeasures. In Transparency in Social Media (pp. 51-65). Springer International Publishing.

(3) Wikipedia, Echo Chamber (media).

SIFT (Four Moves and a Habit) Website Evaluation

1. Stop

First, when you first hit a page or post and start to read it — STOP. Ask yourself whether you know the website or source of the information, and what the reputation of both the claim and the website is. You don’t have that information, use the other moves to get a sense of what you’re looking at. Don’t read it or share media until you know what it is.

2. Investigate the source

You want to know what you’re reading before you read it. Knowing the expertise and agenda of the source is crucial to your interpretation of what they say. Taking sixty seconds to figure out where media is from before reading will help you decide if it is worth your time, and if it is, help you to better understand its significance and trustworthiness.

3. Find trusted coverage

Sometimes you don’t care about the particular article or video that reaches you. You care about the claim the article is making. You want to know if it is true or false. You want to know if it represents a consensus viewpoint, or if it is the subject of much disagreement. In this case, your best strategy may be to ignore the source that reached you, and look for trusted reporting or analysis on the claim. Your best bet might not be to investigate the source, but to go out and find the best source you can on this topic, or, just as importantly, to scan multiple sources and see what the expert consensus seems to be. In these cases we encourage you to “find other coverage” that better suits your needs — more trusted, more in-depth, or maybe just more varied.

4. Trace claims, quotes, and media back to the original context

Much of what we find on the internet has been stripped of context. trace the claim, quote, or media back to the source, so you can see it in it’s original context and get a sense if the version you saw was accurately presented.

*Credit for SIFT goes to Mike Caulfield and is shared here under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

SIFT (The Four Moves)

Steps you should take every time they come across an unfamiliar claim or source.

Check, Please! Starter Course