By: alexander smith
July 26 2023
If you use social media, you will often see people sharing news headlines without any sources or context to catch your attention or to cause a strong emotional response. This can cause fake, misleading, or harmful narratives to spread, so it’s important to use critical thinking skills to help you to get the full picture. This guide from Logically Facts will help you to make an informed judgment about what the real facts are.
If you saw a headline posted as a screenshot on social media, find the original article. People will often share an image that looks like a headline that isn’t real. This will sometimes include the name and picture of a real journalist. If the screenshot does not include the source, search for the exact text of the headline. You can use quotation marks around your search to find the exact text.
A Google search using quotation marks will give results using those exact words. Use this to find the headline you are looking for.
Headlines are designed to catch your attention and give you a summary of the main point of an article but leave out the context you need to get the full picture.
Once you’ve read the article, try and find another article on the same topic from another source. This could be a different newspaper or an academic article. Getting information from more than one place is a good way of getting the full story, as different sources might include or exclude certain details.
Everybody is biased in some way, and news sources are no different. It can be helpful to know the bias of a source to help you make a judgment. Independent organizations like All Sides offer media bias ratings for popular news sources to help you determine if a source has a particular bias.
As well as knowing the bias of a source, you need to know whether or not it is reliable. This list gives a broad idea of how reliable different types of sources are:
Most reliable: academic articles and books
Academic articles and books are considered good because they are usually peer-reviewed, which means they have been checked and verified by experts on the subject before they are published. But you should still use your own judgment to verify them. Sometimes it can take a little digging!
High-quality journalism refers to news sources that have an editorial process where articles are researched and reviewed by several people to verify the information they contain. Again, it’s important to compare stories between different news sources and keep bias in mind.
Least reliable: opinion articles, Wikipedia, blogs
Wikipedia can be useful but is not considered a reliable source because it can be edited by anyone and sometimes lacks evidence. If you find some information on Wikipedia, check the sources to see how reliable it is. Sources like opinion articles and blogs are not considered reliable if it’s difficult to figure out where they get their information. If they don’t state their sources, then you should do some more research to verify any claims.
You might see clickbait headlines, even on some legitimate news websites. Clickbait ads are sensationalized headlines designed to make you so curious you simply must click on them, but they usually lead to pages full of ads. They are often about celebrities, health problems, or ways to make money quickly.
You can usually distinguish an ad from a real article in a few ways:
Our guide to identifying AI generated images.
How to make sure you’re not spreading misinformation.