Skip to main content

Fake News & Misinformation: How to Spot and Verify

This guide provides tips, fact checking websites, and resources to help you discern whether the news you see, read, and hear about is real or fake.

Helpful Tips

Fake news refers to deliberate untruths, or stories that contain some truth but which aren't completely accurate, by accident or design.

Some people also claim that truthful stories are "fake news," just because they don't agree with them. This can lead to the dangerous ignoring of vital advice.

Fake news can have a negative impact on workplace behavior. For example, by damaging learning culture, and causing rumor and mistrust to spread. So, it's vital to know how to separate the real from the fake. You can do this by following these six steps:

  1. Develop a critical mindset.
  2. Check the source.
  3. See who else is reporting the story.
  4. Examine the evidence.
  5. Don't take images at face value.
  6. Check that it "sounds right.

Source: "How to Spot Real and Fake News: Critically Appraising Information" (MindTools).

Infographic: How to Spot Fake News

The International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) created the "How to Spot Fake News" infographic that identifies eight simple steps. The infographic is based on a 2016 article and video by FactCheck.org on how to discover the verifiability of "news" that captures your attention.  Links to the article and video appear under the infographic.

How to Spot Fake News infographic

[PDF] [JPG]

Contact Karolina Andersdotter or Evgeni Hristov at IFLA Headquarters for an editable version of the infographic. The infographic is published under Creative Commons License. 

Question the Authenticity of Images & Videos

Read Laterally

Common Errors and Frequent Causes

Common Errors

  • numbers and statistics (mixing up “billions” & “millions”)
  • names of people, titles, locations
  • ages
  • historical facts
  • superlatives like “only,” “first” and “most”
  • dates

Frequent Sources of Error

  • working from memory
  • making assumptions
  • second-hand sources

Source: Writing and Editing for Digital Media, Brian Carroll, via Google Books

Where do I fact check?

  • Go to the primary source when possible. Using secondary sources like other articles, blog comments and retweets can perpetuate errors.
  • Use your library’s electronic and print resources.
  • Search databases of news and journal articles, like LexisNexis or ScienceDirect, which aren’t accessible on the web, but are available as a library database
  • Study this guide!

Practice: Apply evaluative criteria.

Read and evaluate the following web articles. Discuss what you conclude after reading the linked articles. Is there "truth" to the claim? If so, what is the evidence for your decision? If you do not think it is true or have questions about the authority and accuracy of the claim, what is the evidence for your decision?

CLAIM: "Human beings now have the attention span of a goldfish!"

  1. http://time.com/3858309/attention-spans-goldfish/  
  2. http://brandongaille.com/average-attention-span-statistics-and-trends/  
  3. http://www.iflscience.com/brain/do-you-have-lower-attention-span-goldfish/ 
  4. http://www.bbc.com/news/health-38896790 

Browser Extensions

St. Louis Community College Libraries

Florissant Valley Campus Library
3400 Pershall Rd.
Ferguson, MO 63135-1408
Phone: 314-513-4514

Forest Park Campus Library
5600 Oakland
St. Louis, MO 63110-1316
Phone: 314-644-9210

Meramec Campus Library
11333 Big Bend Road
St. Louis, MO 63122-5720
Phone: 314-984-7797

Wildwood Campus Library
2645 Generations Drive
Wildwood, MO 63040-1168
Phone: 636-422-2000