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Fake News: Learn How to Spot False News

Tips on fact-checking the news.

How to Spot Fake News

You can also use these same tips for evaluating websites, memes, social media posts, and more.


Find Real News

You can also find reputable news through some of the databases the library subscribes to. Just try searching for your news topic in the "Start Your Research Here" box on the library's home page.

The library also gets a number of print magazines and newspapers, which can be found on the top floor of the Scoville Learning Commons, near the reference desk.

Explore More

Learn more about false news and how to spot it, as well as other related topics, such as post-truth, online advertisements, alternative facts, evaluating websites and information, online filter bubbles, misleading information, fake videos, and more.

Fact vs. Opinion


You’ve seen memes - there are several on this page - probably on Facebook or some other social media platform. They can be entertaining, but they aren’t necessarily based on fact. Also, the picture and words don’t have to be related and quotes can be attributed to people other than who actually said them (take a look at the “Abraham Lincoln” meme, above). Try evaluating them the same way you would news or other information found online, using some of the suggestions in this guide, and think before you share them.

A Few Things to Keep in Mind...

  1. When you open up a news article in your browser, open a second, empty tab.  Use that second window to look up claims, author credentials and organizations that you come across in the article.
  2. Fake news spans across all kinds of media - printed and online articles, podcasts, YouTube videos, radio shows, even still images.
  3. As Mad-Eye Moody said in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, "Constant Vigilance!"  Always be ready to fact check.
  4. Even the best researchers will be fooled once in a while.  If you find yourself fooled by a fake news story, use your experience as a learning tool.


Try Your Evaluating Skills!

Test your fake news detection skills with the links below! 


Are the following sites credible, reliable, and suitable to use for college-level research? You be the judge!

Types of Fake News

There are four broad categories of fake news, according to media professor Melissa Zimdars of Merrimack College.

  1. Fake, false, or regularly misleading websites that are shared on Facebook and social media. Some of these websites may rely on “outrage” by using distorted headlines and decontextualized or dubious information in order to generate likes, shares, and profits.
  2. Websites that may circulate misleading and/or potentially unreliable information.
  3. Websites which sometimes use clickbait-y headlines and social media descriptions.
  4. Satire/comedy sites, which can offer important critical commentary on politics and society, but have the potential to be shared as actual/literal news.

No single topic falls under a single category - for example, false or misleading medical news may be entirely fabricated (Category 1), may intentionally misinterpret facts or misrepresent data (Category 2), may be accurate or partially accurate but use an alarmist title to get your attention (Category 3) or may be a critique on modern medical practice (Category 4.). Some articles fall under more than one category. Assessing the quality of the content is crucial to understanding whether what you are viewing is true or not. It is up to you to do the legwork to make sure your information is good.


What's Bad about Fake News?

Why should you care about whether or not your news is real or fake?

  1. You deserve the truth.  You are smart enough to make up your own mind - as long as you have the real facts in front of you.  You have every right to be insulted when you read fake news, because you are in essence being treated like an idiot.
  2. Fake news destroys your credibility.  If your arguments are built on bad information, it will be much more difficult for people to believe you in the future.
  3. Fake news can hurt you, and a lot of other people.  Purveyors of fake and misleading medical advice like and help perpetuate myths like HIV and AIDS aren't related, or that vaccines cause autism.  These sites are heavily visited and their lies are dangerous.
  4. Real news can benefit you.  If you want to buy stock in a company, you want to read accurate articles about that company so you can invest wisely.  If you are planning on voting in an election, you want to read as much good information on a candidate so you can vote for the person who best represents your ideas and beliefs.  Fake news will not help you make money or make the world a better place, but real news can.


Fact-checking Help: Slideshow and More

Check out the presentation below for a few more ways to spot fake news. Try using a worksheet to help you evaluate sources. For more tips, see the fact-checking website. 

Need Help?

If you have more questions, ask a librarian! We are here to help.​

Stop by the reference desk on the top floor of the Scoville Learning Commons to ask us in-person, or ...

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