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Choosing the Best Web Source: Lateral Reading

Learn to recognize open and hidden web resources; determine if a site on the open web is reliable; & analyze resources on the open web.

Crash Course in Lateral Reading

In this video, host John Green teaches you how to read laterally, opening new tabs in your browser to fact check as you read.

This video is from Civic Reasoning Online published by the Stanford History Education Group.

Why Use Lateral Reading?

Who evaluates web sites better?

A) Historians with PhDs

B) Undergraduate Students

C) Professional Fact Checkers


Professional Fact Checkers

Stanford History Education Group tested the online evaluation skills of PhD holding historians vs undergraduate students at Stanford University vs professional fact checkers.

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" (Spector).

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 by reading "across many connected sites instead of digging deep into the site at hand" (Caufield).

Works Cited

Caulfield, Mike. Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers, PressBooks, 2017, Accessed 11 Jan. 2021.

Spector, Carrie. "Stanford Scholars Observe 'Experts' to See How They Evaluate the Credibility of Information Online." Stanford Graduate School of Education, Stanford University, 24 Oct. 2017, Accessed 11 Jan. 2021.

Wineburg, Sam, and Sarah McGrew. "Lateral Reading: Reading Less and Learning More when Evaluating Digital Information." Stanford History Education Group Working Paper No. 2017-A1, 6 Oct. 2017. SSRN, PDF download. Accessed 11 Jan. 2021.

How To Read Laterally

infographic with 3 steps

Suggested Steps:

The SIFT Method


The content on this page was adapted by permission from the work of Joanna Novick, Cox Library at Milton Academy.

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