Evaluating Information
Find useful tips for evaluating news sources, spotting and stopping the spread of fake news, and evaluating health and medical information that you encounter in books, magazines, TV, or online.

Evaluating News Sources

(Borrowed with permission from the Deschutes Public Library)
Learn how to separate fact from fiction, and fact check like a pro using these tools.

News stories are commonly shared on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and YouTube. According to the Pew Research Center, a majority of Americans get their news from social media sites, which can make it difficult to determine the credibility of sources.

2016 study by the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG) revealed 80% of students were unable to differentiate between a news story and paid advertisements, and overlook blatant evidence of bias in the news they view. Our “capacity for online civic reasoning is at risk,” states SHEG Director, Sam Wineburg.

Tips for Evaluating News Sources
Evaluate before you click and share.

  • Check the URL: Be on the lookout for sites with strange domain names. Disreputable sources often use web addresses that end in “.com.co” or “lo”. Use Whois.com to check who owns a domain you don’t recognize.
  • Consider the source: Who is the author, publisher or sponsor? Use the website’s “About” link to find out about the organization – who owns it and what is its mission. Be wary of sites that don’t share this information.
  • Look for visual clues: ALL CAPS and photoshopped images are red flags. Use reverse search engines like TinEye or Bing Image Match or Google Reverse Image Search.
  • Verify: Does the source include quotes, references or links? Factual information can be verified, and is often reported by a variety of news outlets.
  • Check the date: How recent is the information? Old news stories are frequently recycled on social media.
  • Get a second opinion: Be aware of the inherent bias in the media you consume. Check your bias by consulting multiple perspectives.
    • Use this Pew Report to check your chosen media’s inherent bias.
    • Use Allsides.com to read articles on the same subject from several sources.
  • Be wary of appeals to emotion: If a story makes you angry, it is probably designed to do so. Be wary of accusation-based stories that report on an accusation, but neither verify nor disprove it. True evidence-based reporting will open with evidence supporting or denying an accusation.
  • Consult fact-checking sites:
    • FactCheck.org: “FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, monitors the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases.”
    • Politifact.com: “PolitiFact is a fact-checking website that rates the accuracy of claims by elected officials and others who speak up in American politics. PolitiFact is run by editors and reporters from the Tampa Bay Times, an independent newspaper in Florida.”
    • Snopes.com: Started in 1995 by David Mikkelson, Snopes.com is considered the “online touchstone of rumor research.”
  • Be leery of ads disguised as news: Is the story trying to sell you something?
  • Be skeptical: Ask yourself if a story is likely to be true. If not, check if it’s from a comedy or satirical site.

Need more help? The Ada Community Library can help! Call, visit, or Ask a Librarian.


(Source: IFLA-How To Spot Fake News)

Evaluating Health and Medical Information

(Borrowed with permission from the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County)

Three Ways to do your own health research:

1. Search the Library Catalog: Type the health topic, such as a specific disease or disorder for which you want information

2. Browse the 600s Health Shelves in the library where you will find books, such as:

  • 610 – Medical Dictionaries and Encyclopedias
  • 611 – Human Anatomy (Where is my heart in my body?)
  • 612 – Human Physiology (the body’s systems – How does my digestive system work?)
  • 613 – Nutrition, Diet and Exercise
  • 614 – First Aid and How to Avoid Infections and Diseases
  • 615 – Prescription and Over-the-Counter Medications, and Addiction
  • 616 – Diseases and Disorders
  • 617 – Surgery and Medical Tests
  • 618 – Pregnancy, Pediatrics and Geriatrics
  • 619 – Veterinary Medicine (for your pets)

3. Try the Internet using a search engine, such as Google

  • Note: be careful and check your results
  • Most trustworthy website domain is .gov
  • .com sites are commercial, they want to sell products
  • .org are often nonprofit, but often have ads

Checking Health Information from books, magazines, TV news or online websites

Five tips when reading, listening or watching health news reports:

  1. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  2. Does the story only claim the benefits? Does it quickly run through the list of side effects?
  3. What about the cost of the procedure, product or treatment?
  4. Does the story report about a “simple screening test”? If it does, that should raise a red flag as there are no “simple screening tests”.
  5. More is not necessarily better when it comes to health care.

Three tests to use when looking at health information:


  • Currency: The timeliness of the information
  • Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs
  • Authority: The source of the information
  • Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content
  • Purpose: The reason the information exists

SMART Check:

  • Source: Who or what is the source?
  • Motive: Why do they say so?
  • Authority: Who wrote the story?
  • Review: Go over the story carefully
  • Two-source test: Double check everything if possible

ABCs of Website Evaluation (which also applies to books and magazine articles):

  • Accuracy: Is the Information based on sound medical research? Is it based on fact?
  • Authority: Who is the author? What are their credentials?
  • Bias/Objectivity: Who is the sponsor?
  • Currency/Timeliness: Check the date
  • Coverage: Is the information comprehensive?

Great websites to learn more about evaluating health information:

Browser Plug-ins:

Choosing Health Apps Chart:


Source: NNLM Midwest Matters July 9, 2018 “Suspect before you download that Health or Wellness App”

Don't Forget:
While libraries and librarians provide access to medical information, librarians are not medical professionals and cannot provide medical advice. This information is intended to provide a broad overview of health care topics; and should not be used in place of a visit, call, consultation or advice of your physician or other health care provider. The Ada Community Library does not recommend the self-management of health problems. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.