Verified – Book Summary

4. Lateral Reading: Using the Web to Read the Web

  • If you do a search and click on the top item, you may be heading down a rabbit hole. Anytime you find a site for an organization or individual rather than reading down, you want to do some lateral reading. Simply put the name of the organization or individual in your search and see what comes up. Be sure to read at least the information on the first search page. This should expose any serious biases the object of your search has.
  • While this usually works to weed out biased sites, there are times when you may have to dig deeper. Biases sites tend to take the attributes of sites they disagree with and simplify them by leading with pejorative terms. Quick searches are often useful, but they may also have their limits. Pushing the results for business or a cause to the top of the search list is called search engine optimization or SEO. It is an $80 billion a year business. (Doug: I’m constantly getting offers from these companies.)

5. Reading the Room: Benefiting From Expertise When You Have Only a Bit Yourself

  • No matter how convincing a single source sounds you need to step back and read the room. Look for sources that compile results from as many sources as possible. You can even look for multiple sites of this nature. Ideally you will find that most of the field is in agreement on the issue of interest.
  • For some issues you will find that experts disagree. In this case you might want to trust the majority while giving some consideration to the minority point of view. When an issue is undecided, reputable sources will say so.

6. Show Me the Evidence: Why Scholarly Sources and Better Than Promotional Materials, Newsletters, and Random Tweets

  • The quality of evidence on the Internet varies greatly. The best sources are considered to be from peer reviewed journals although they aren’t perfect either. Articles published in a peer reviewed journals have been vetted by experts in the field prior to publication. There are also journals you want to avoid called predatory journals. These are journals that charge authors to publish their work that will publish just about anything. To check the quality of a journal you can use Wikipedia.
  • One way to stick with quality academic work is to do your searching using Google Scholar. If something doesn’t show up in Google Scholar searches, that should be a serious red flag. Google Scholar also allows you to see how often an article has been cited by other researchers. This is no guarantee of quality either, but lots of citations is a good sign. In any event, a review of the literature should turn up many articles on your subject of interest rather than one or a few.

7. Wikipedia: Not What Your Middle School Teacher Told You

  • When Wikipedia first started in 2001, it was indeed full of errors. While it still isn’t error free, it has come a long way. Today if you ask Alexa or Siri a question, don’t be surprised if they send you to Wikipedia. It is currently the fifth most visited web site. If you aren’t a registered Wikipedia editor, any edits you make on non locked articles are likely to get scooped up and erased in thirty minutes or less. Only registered editors can edit locked pages, which are the pages most frequently visited.
  • Wikipedia is mostly written by white male college educated people who are middle class. To that extent is has a bias. (Doug: Probably a bit to the left, but not too far.) They are looking for more women and people of color and have had some success. Encyclopedias are considered tertiary sources and Wikipedia does not allow original research. If you are looking to do some research of your own, Wikipedia is a great place to start as it will give you an overview of your topic along with lots of citations that you can follow and cite in your work. There is a section here that will help you decipher the sources, which are seriously nerdy.

8. Video Games: The Dirty Tricks of Deceptive Video

  • Video clips are often used to deceive. Most deceptive videos are real as today, anyone can make and edit videos. Real deceptive videos are those that are usually taken out of context. The shorter the video, the more suspicious you should be. Use the SIFT concepts you learned in chapter one with an emphasis on the F, which stands for find other sources.
  • One example of a hoax covered here involves a TikTok video. (Doug: Don’t forget that TikTok is owned by a Chinese organization that is subject to oversight by the Chinese Communist Party as of 3/22/2024.) The authors encourage you to share more news, not less. Don’t be reluctant to share news because you fear that it may turn out to be false.
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