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Lateral Reading: Reading Less and Learning More When Evaluating Digital Information

Stanford History Education Group Working Paper No. 2017-A1

56 Pages Posted: 9 Oct 2017  

Sam Wineburg

Stanford University Graduate School of Education

Sarah McGrew

Stanford Graduate School of Education

Date Written: October 6, 2017

Abstract

The Internet has democratized access to information but in so doing has opened the floodgates to misinformation, fake news, and rank propaganda masquerading as dispassionate analysis. To investigate how people determine the credibility of digital information, we sampled 45 individuals: 10 Ph.D. historians, 10 professional fact checkers, and 25 Stanford University undergraduates. We observed them as they evaluated live websites and searched for information on social and political issues. Historians and students often fell victim to easily manipulated features of websites, such as official-looking logos and domain names. They read vertically, staying within a website to evaluate its reliability. In contrast, fact checkers read laterally, leaving a site after a quick scan and opening up new browser tabs in order to judge the credibility of the original site. Compared to the other groups, fact checkers arrived at more warranted conclusions in a fraction of the time. We contrast insights gleaned from the fact checkers’ practices with common approaches to teaching web credibility.

Keywords: Digital Literacy, Media Literacy, Credibility, Expertise

Suggested Citation

Wineburg, Sam and McGrew, Sarah, Lateral Reading: Reading Less and Learning More When Evaluating Digital Information (October 6, 2017). Stanford History Education Group Working Paper No. 2017-A1 . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3048994

Sam Wineburg (Contact Author)

Stanford University Graduate School of Education ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305-3096
United States

HOME PAGE: http://sheg.stanford.edu

Sarah Mcgrew

Stanford Graduate School of Education ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

HOME PAGE: http://sheg.stanford.edu

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