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GEN: Source Evaluation: Lateral Reading

Topic Guide

What does Lateral Reading mean?

How do you analyze the author’s qualifications or the trustworthiness of the site?

A recent study from the Stanford History Education Group tested the online evaluation skills of professional fact checkers vs PhD Historians vs undergraduate students.

The bottom line:

The truth is more likely to be found in the network of links to (and commentaries about) the site than in the site itself. Lateral readers gain a better understanding as to whether to trust the facts and analysis presented to them.

The conclusion:

"The fact checkers [using lateral reading] proved to be fastest and most accurate, while historians and students were easily deceived by unreliable sources."


Caulfield, Mike. Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers. self-published, 2017. Digital file.

Spector, Carrie. "Stanford scholars observe 'experts' to see how they evaluate the credibility of information online." Stanford University, 24 Oct. 2017, stanford-scholars-observe-experts-see-how-they-evaluate-credibility-information-online. Accessed 1 Mar. 2018.

Wineburg, Sam, and Sarah McGrew. "Lateral reading: Reading less and learning more when evaluating digital information." (2017). Stanford History Education Group Working Paper No. 2017-A1. Available at SSRN: