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A guide to major reference works, scholarly article databases and data sources in Economics.

What makes a news story fake?

Invasion of Fake News!

  1. The story cannot be verified. 
    • A fake news story may or may not have links in it that trace its sources. 
    • If the story does contain links, they may not lead to outside sources. 
  2. Fake news appears to be emotional.
    • Plays on your feelings making you happy, sad or freighted. 
    • Often in an attempt to avoid you from verifying the facts of the story. 
  3. Authors usually are not experts. 
    • Most authors are not even journalists, yet often paid trolls. 
  4. The story cannot be found elsewhere. 
    • Main idea of the news story not available via any other news channel. 
  5. Fake news comes from fake site. 
    • Be conscious of fake or satirical news sites such as :

Original Source: Indiana University East Campus Library


Kinds of Fake News

There are four broad categories of fake news, according to media professor Melissa Zimdars of Merrimack College.

CATEGORY 1: Fake, false, or regularly misleading websites that are shared on Facebook and social media. Some of these websites may rely on “outrage” by using distorted headlines and decontextualized or dubious information in order to generate likes, shares, and profits.

CATEGORY 2: Websites that may circulate misleading and/or potentially unreliable information

CATEGORY 3: Websites which sometimes use clickbait-y headlines and social media descriptions

CATEGORY 4: Satire/comedy sites, which can offer important critical commentary on politics and society, but have the potential to be shared as actual/literal news

No single topic falls under a single category - for example, false or misleading medical news may be entirely fabricated (Category 1), may intentionally misinterpret facts or misrepresent data (Category 2), may be accurate or partially accurate but use an alarmist title to get your attention (Category 3) or may be a critique on modern medical practice (Category 4.)  Some articles fall under more than one category.  Assessing the quality of the content is crucial to understanding whether what you are viewing is true or not.   It is up to you to do the legwork to make sure your information is good.

Original Source: Indiana University East Campus Library

Why should we care about Fake News?

Why should we care about whether or not news is real or fake?

  1. You deserve the truth.  You are smart enough to make up your own mind - as long as you have the real facts in front of you.  You have every right to be insulted when you read fake news, because you are in essence being treated like an idiot.
  2. Fake news destroys your credibility.  If your arguments are built on bad information, it will be much more difficult for people to believe you in the future.
  3. Fake news can hurt you, and a lot of other people.  Purveyors of fake and misleading medical advice like and help perpetuate myths like HIV and AIDS aren't related, or that vaccines cause autism.  These sites are heavily visited and their lies are dangerous.
  4. Real news can benefit you.  If you want to buy stock in a company, you want to read accurate articles about that company so you can invest wisely.  If you are planning on voting in an election, you want to read valid and factual information on a candidate so you can vote for the person who best represents your ideas and beliefs.  Fake news will not help you make money or make the world a better place, but real news can.

Original Source: Indiana University East Campus Library

How can we avoid Fake News?

  1. Check the source - is it a .com? .org? .edu? or Is the source from a Google search or did you use an academic database?
  2. Use the CRAAP Test: (detailed description below)
    1. Currency,
    2. Relevance,
    3. Accuracy,
    4. Authority,
    5. Purpose.
  3. Question everything. Does the site have ads? Is the source from a think tank or a nonprofit that has a stake in the subject of the article? What is the background of the author?
  4. Check any links in the article. Do they actually lead to information that verifies something in the article?

Original Source: Indiana University East Campus Library

The CRAAP Test

Currency: the timeliness of the information

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Is the information current or out-of date for your topic?
  • Are the links functional?

Relevance: the importance of the information for your needs

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
  • Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper?

Authority: the source of the information

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • Are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?
    • examples: .com (commercial), .edu (educational), .gov (U.S. government), .org (nonprofit organization), .net (network), (Québec government) (Québec government) or (Canadian government)

Accuracy: the reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem biased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?

Purpose: the reason the information exists

  • What is the purpose of the information? to inform? teach? sell? entertain? persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact? opinion? propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?

Original Source: Meriam Library, California State University-Chico

Liaison Librarian for Economics, International Development and Public Policy

Additional Sources on Fake News

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