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As the ways in which information gets produced and distributed online have substantially changed, librarians’ approaches to teaching source evaluation are also evolving. Many librarians are pointing out the limitations of formulaic approaches to source evaluation (e.g., checklists like CRAAP and RADCAB), given how source evaluation has become increasingly challenging in online environments. Research on “lateral reading” from the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG) and from Mike Caulfield has informed much of this work. In a 2016 study SHEG found that professional fact-checkers who practice “lateral reading” - spending little time on a website and more time reading what other sources say about the source or related issue - do better in identifying misleading information. (See “Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning”.) Mike Caulfield’s work on web literacy, in particular his “Four Moves” and SIFT strategies, offer helpful models for lateral reading (see While seemingly simple, “Four Moves,” SIFT, and other lateral reading strategies are not as straightforward as they first appear. Rather, they require a great deal of experimentation and flexibility, and often careful analysis of rhetorical context.

In this session we will share our experiences in developing a pilot online interactive module about lateral reading strategies for source evaluation that draws and builds on the Four Moves and SIFT. We will highlight three key considerations when developing our project:

1) identifying stumbling blocks of practicing and teaching about lateral reading,

2) developing strategic scaffolding, and

3) approaching the Four Moves and SIFT as complementary models.

  1. Stumbling blocks with lateral reading: These include investigating contentious issues about which there are strong opposing views, the effects of personalized search results, addressing varying views of Wikipedia’s legitimacy as a background source.

  2. Scaffolding: Our scaffolding approach includes multiple iterations of instructor modeling, student practice, guided feedback, and activities of increasing complexity. Instruction is also organized into different types of tasks (e.g. determining if a story is true; investigating an organization, publication, or person; tracing a story back to its origin; distinguishing between a quick initial evaluation of source credibility and more in-depth examination of a source).

  3. The Four Moves and SIFT as complementary models: While SIFT offers a high-level view of verifying online information, the Four Moves suggest more specific ways to engage with SIFT.

Reflecting on these three considerations, we will also introduce elements of the online module, invite attendees at various points to offer feedback and to share their experiences teaching about source evaluation, and discuss next steps for our project.

Learning outcomes

  • Reflect on and share experiences with teaching about source evaluation.
  • Become more informed about “lateral reading” strategies for source evaluation.
  • Reflect on opportunities and challenges with practicing and teaching about lateral reading.