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Lateral Reading: What is lateral reading?

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

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

SIFT infographich

The SIFT method was developed by Michael Caulfield and is used under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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

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