Why source criticism is important

Information passes us at a furious pace, in a never-ending flow. Today’s youth grow up in a digital world, finding most of their news, facts and entertainment online. This accessibility of information is positive. But the ease of publishing—the ability of anyone to post almost anything, for any reason—makes it all the more important to adopt a critical approach. We know we can’t always trust the accuracy of information we find online—that’s why source criticism is so important.

Source criticism is a way of evaluating information

Students need to understand why they should be critical and questioning when they search for information online, whether for their studies or for their own pleasure. Even statements that seem true at first glance may have been developed to mislead, deceive, or provoke. Some marketing is created to look like journalism, with a clear intent to sway a target audience. Furthermore, the ability for anyone to edit online texts increases the risk of unsupported claims. A source-critical approach helps students evaluate the information they encounter.

Learn more about source criticism

The consequences of lack of source criticism

A lack of source criticism can leave readers and viewers misinformed, leading them to draw incorrect conclusions and make faulty decisions based on flawed data. Providing practical examples of this problem may make this concept more relevant to students’ daily lives.

Lack of source criticism, such as failing to investigate the sender of an email, can have significant consequences, including fraud or identity theft. That’s why it is important to reinforce the value of source-criticism everywhere, in all channels.

It is even more important that the young, who are still forming their views of the world, have solid facts on which to base them. Students benefit from developing the ability to review information and imagine the consequences of various alternatives. School has an important task—both to teach and to constantly remind students of the importance of fact-checking and source criticism.

Every individual is responsible for protecting him- or herself from false and misleading information.  There will always be questions that can only be resolved at the individual level. It is valid to ask: “Should I believe this article?” “Are the claims my friend has made on Facebook true?” Those who act without thinking may suffer the consequences. There are many reasons to take source criticism seriously—the price for not doing so can be high.

Failure to criticize sources may lead not only to personal suffering, but also to mass suffering, if false information is spread. As important as it is to be source-critical for yourself, it is also vital to check any information you plan to share—for the benefit of all.

Check the facts with Factlab

Letting students use Factlab to check the facts they find online is a simple way to introduce them to source criticism. Factlab offers data from hundreds of referenced sources from around the world, as well as statistics regarding everything from economics and politics to health, culture, and sports.

Download our checklist “Investigate an online source with five simple questions"

It is more important than ever to review sources critically. Our checklist helps you determine whether an online source is trustworthy. You will learn:

  • What are common warning signs?
  • How do you develop a source critical approach?
  • How and where can you fact check an article?

Fill out the form and get the checklist with five simple questions to help you investigate an online source. 

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