People are often questioned by educators, journalists, voters and students about how they do their work. In case you need to fact-check some information, what will you begin with?
Note that fact-checking does not differ from a traditional type of journalism. However, its outlook is different because of the relentless focus on evidence. When one needs to fact-check something, he/she has to uncover all possible evidences. It should be the main goal of fact-checking.
Due to the years or experience, we have developed useful search strategies. Therefore, not to miss any evidence, we created a checklist. Despite the fact that every fact-check differs, one may apply the same technique in order to ferret out more facts and find the truth.
Below you can see our examples of checklist. It is possible to use it regardless of the journalistic fact-checking type.
1. Ask the person who makes a certain claim to provide evidence
This rule seems to be basic. However, we believe that it is the best way to begin. We noticed that when a person makes particular factual statement even without any preparation, he/she should be willing to tell where they heard or found such claim. Even the most inaccurate people do not tend to make up factual statements from nothing.
Perceive the evidence received from the speaker your tip sheet. As soon as you got it, you can start looking for some more evidence that may contradict or support it. In addition, it is fair to tell the person that you want to fact-check him/her, thus he/she will be able to tell you the story from personal side.
2. Try to find what was learnt by other fact-checkers
Every person wants to be unique. However, it is almost impossible to become the first fact-checker who tries to look at a claim. In most cases, someone else has already has already researched the claim you are trying to investigate now.
There numerous fact-checking sites, for instance, you can use PolitiFact. Here you can check archives for more than 8000 fact-checks to find what has already been researched on the selected topic. In addition, we use Factcheck.org to see our friends’ work. Snopes and Washington Post Checker are also helpful sources of information. Note that you need to give credit to all the sources you use. Usually we look what others have found and verify all the evidences. In addition, we try to pursue other angles and ideas on the selected topic in order to see if we can find some more information.
3. Use Google for your search and then search for more
We know that Google search is considered to be basic. However, it has a powerful algorithm. When you begin typing the words, be patient and see what terms are suggested by Google. Search settings of Google give an opportunity to find particular website and to look at time periods.
Do not stop on typing a few inquiries. Try to type in as many word combinations as possible. For example, if you need to find facts about Climate Change, you can type in the following word combinations: global warming, climate change, carbon capture, carbon emissions, greenhouse effect, EPA regulations, etc.
Learn how to effectively use search operators of Google so that you could look by types of the file or domain name. Of course, it will take some time to become aware of advanced capabilities of Google. However, the effort is worth it.
4. Learn how to search the Deep Web
Deep Web, what is it? Deep Web contains certain areas of Internet that are close to surface searching. Usually, it includes subscription websites and databases. For instance, one can use the paid databases, such as CQ or Lexis Nexis to look for the information related to congressional votes, news reports or public comments that can be decades old. In order to search for the TV Shows and closed captions they had one can use the Critical Mention database. In addition, to find older data and facts pulled down from the Web by different people, we offer you to use free Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.
The biggest true for Google search results is that what was impossible to find yesterday can become possible today. It means that database websites keep on updating every day.
In case you cannot pay for the subscription site, you can always go to the local library. A number of libraries provide access to commercial databases. All you have to do is to key in the library card with the provided pin code.
5. Find experts who have different perspectives.
Some experts are willing to point a person to the research work he/she is not willing to find alone. In addition, they can give essential context to the research one has already done. Experts with different perspectives save from incorrect assumptions about difficult topics.
Do not hesitate to ask experts to assist you in finding new experts. Ask them the following things: “Is there a person whose point of view you respect? Might he/she disagree with your opinion?” or “Can you recommend a person who is the authority on the issue under discussion?”
In a two-party system, people tend to reduce the problem to only two sides. However, we need to understand that the world is more complicated. That is why it is recommended to keep on looking for more than just two different opinions. Real experts are willing to assist you to start recognizing more colors that just black and white. It gives an opportunity to see the whole spectrum of complexity of the selected issue.
6. Do not ignore the books
It is completely understandable that you may not have enough time to read the book to the end. However, you can search Amazon to find the authors for the interview. In addition, Amazon’s "search inside the book" helps to find proper quotes or simple explanations to different terms. You can try using WorldCat.org website. It helps to find the necessary book and informs you about which closest to you library it is in. moreover, there are electronic books. You can buy them online or download free books directly to your computer.
Remember that books are the richest source of information.
7. Maybe Anything Else?
Everyone has probably heard the following words: “If I could know things I know now.. .”
In case you go through all the steps provided above, you will definitely know more about the issue or topic under your investigation.
It is the right moment when you have to stop for a minute, and ask yourself the following questions, “Have I missed anything? Can I talk to anybody else? Maybe I should consider some other perspective?” Answering these questions can help find the last piece of information that will make your fact-checking successful.