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Lateral Reading

An introduction to lateral reading skills and techniques to help evaluate sources.

Understand the Need for Lateral Reading

Who evaluates websites better?

A) Historians with PhDs

B) Undergraduate Students

C) Professional Fact Checkers

Answer

Professional Fact Checkers

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

The Conclusion

"The fact checkers [using lateral reading] proved to be fastest and most accurate [at evaluating websites], 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, webliteracy.pressbooks.com. 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, ed.stanford.edu/news/stanford-scholars-observe-experts-see-how-they-evaluate-credibility-information-online. 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, ssrn.com/abstract=3048994. PDF download. Accessed 11 Jan. 2021.

Know How to Read Laterally

infographic with 3 steps

Remember These Steps

Latera Reading Poster

Acknowledgement

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