What Is a Fact?
A fact is a statement that can be verified. A statement of opinion is not a fact. As a fact-checker, you are working with content that is written, not researching new material. Therefore, you must read the document and identify and extract all content in need of fact checking.
How Do You Fact-Check?
The first step is to read through the entire document. Next, read the document again, this time highlighting, underlining, or marking all facts that can be verified, including phrasing and word choices such as “always” and “exactly." The following are common places to start when fact-checking:
- Always ask yourself, “Who would know this?” to find the best resource.
- Always ask, “Does this make sense?”
- Check assertions about scientific theories and evidence. Sometimes, the easiest way to do this will be to contact scientists in the field; other times, the information will be well-established in the literature.
- Confirm statistics.
- Check all proper names, titles, product names, place names, locations, etc.
- Check terms used. Are they commonplace and agreed upon in the scientific community? Do they need clarification?
- Watch for inflammatory language, as well as more subtle forms of persuasion. If the site makes you angry or emotional in some way, be aware that you may be the victim of manipulation.
- Check declarative statements, for example, “…this is a big deal,” “the area is huge,” "always," "exactly," etc. The reason it is a “big deal” (how “huge” is the area?) should be explained in the text. If it isn’t, find out why: Is it a big deal because of money, time, compared with something else?
- Be particularly cautious of facts stated absolutely.
- Verify any numbers used in the article.
Choose quality resources to verify facts. In addition to many of the resources listed throughout this guide, databases that provide background information contained in dictionaries/encyclopedias are good starting points because of their quick overviews and easy-to-read nature. Try some of the following: