What you will learn
Critical thinking is at the heart of being intellectual, requiring you to be more deliberate, systematic and self-reflective about the way you think. It’s also an in-demand skill for employment, rated as the second most important skill (behind complex problem solving) for future jobs by the World Economic Forum (2016). This module will help you develop your critical thinking skills by:
Pause for a moment to think about the following question. When you have an answer, turn the card to learn more:
Information takes many forms – facts, gossip, rumour, theories, and knowledge – so it’s important to assess the things you hear, see or read for credibility. Work through this short quiz for some tips to help you establish credibility.
At the minimum, when you are assessing a source, you should check for the following:
Authority: Is the author qualified to be writing on a topic. Do they have a relevant qualification? Do they work in a relevant field? Have they published other articles on the topic? If the author is an organisation, is it recognised and trustworthy? Do they have an ulterior motive for presenting the information, particularly a financial or political motive?
Purpose: Why was the content created? Is its goal to inform, by presenting an objective and evidence-based account of the topic? To persuade, by presenting a biased or one-sided account of the topic? Is the information trying to sell you a product?
Evidence: If claims are being made, is there evidence to support them, either references or links to further information? If the author is using references, are they from authors who are qualified to write on the topic? Can you find corroboration for the points being made elsewhere on the Internet?
If you’re assessing a source for an assignment, make sure that it meets the minimum requirements for inclusion. Has it been published within an acceptable date range? Is it an acceptable format? Make sure to follow all of your assignment instructions so that you don’t lose any marks!
When you encounter new information it may be necessary that you look beyond the source to confirm any claims they are making. This is particularly true if you’re looking at information that hasn’t been through a quality check process prior to publication, or if the information has been produced by an organisation you’re not familiar with. So, what’s the best way to fact check a source?
The best way to establish the credibility of information is through a process called lateral reading. When reading laterally, instead of reading the content of the page from start to finish, you read across, checking information as it’s presented to you. You do this by opening new tabs in your browser and performing searches outside of the page that you are reading, checking the ‘facts’ as you go. This includes:
To learn more about the lateral reading approach, watch this short video created by the Stanford History Education group.