Testing your web sources for Fact, Fiction, and Bias
The Internet is a powerful information tool. However, there are many websites that have inaccurate or questionable information. Now that you have used the CRAAP Test to find some sources online, try giving them the SMELL Test to be sure the information is trustworthy!
Source: Who is giving me this information?
- Is the information clearly cited from a primary, or first-hand source?
- Are they free of prejudice and conflict of interest?
- Do they have relevant expertise on the topic?
Motivation: Why are they telling me this?
- Is the information clearly stated without emotional or persuasive language?
- Is the source/website free of distracting sales pitches, advertising, or commercial interests?
- Are multiple sides of the story or different perspectives represented?
Evidence: How are they supporting their statements?
- Does the source introduce at least one other source or reference?
- Are factual claims supported with verifiable citations?
- Are data sets (graphs/charts/infographics) clearly presented in an understandable format?
Logic: How did they come to their conclusions?
- Do they provide sufficient evidence to support their claims?
- Do their claims make sense the way they have explained it?
- Considering facts that I already know to be true, does the information presented seem realistic and believable?
Left Out: What are they not telling me?
- Does the source make an effort to present all relevant information?
- Are most of my questions about their claims answered?
- If I search for the same topic from other sources, do they all provide basically the same information?
For a handy SMELL Checklist to help with your research project, download and print the file below:
From: Don't Be Fooled - Use the SMELL Test to Separate Fact from Fiction Online! by John McManus at Mediashift.org, 2016.