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Public Speaking: CSI 1111

Research help for the course, CSI: Public Speaking.

Tips for Doing Your Own Fact-Checking

check markWhat 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?
  • 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.

Verify Facts

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:

[Some of this text is from authored by Jennifer Jongsma.]

magnifying glass hovering over the word truthFact Checking Websites

Fact-checking sites are useful tools for helping users distinguish between the truth and rumors. Like all websites, fact-checking sites may have biases towards a certain group or issue. Take time to evaluate who is running the site, how the site is funded, and what type of information is being provided when using these types of sites.

Videos on Evaluating Sources

Evaluating Sources for Credibility

Assessing Expertise

Lateral Reading

Reading & Interpreting Sources

Icon of individual readingAfter you have decided that a source is potentially useful, read it carefully and critically, asking yourself the following questions about how this research fits your project:

  • How relevant is this material to your research question?
  • Does the source include counterarguments that you should address?
  • How persuasive is the evidence? Does it represent opposing viewpoints fairly? Will the source be convincing to your audience?
  • Will you need to change your thesis to account for this information?
  • What quotations or paraphrases from this source might you want to use?

Adapted from Easy Writer (4th ed.)

How to Use Your Sources

lightbulbSources can play several different roles as you develop your points:

Provide background information or context -- You can use facts and statistics to support generalizations or to establish the importance of your topic.

Explain terms or concepts -- Explain words, phrases, or ideas that might be unfamiliar to your readers. Quoting or paraphrasing a source can help you define terms and concepts in neutral, accessible language.

Support your claims -- Back up your assertions with facts, examples, and other evidence from your research.

Lend authority to your argument -- Expert opinion can give weight to your argument. But don't rely on experts to make your argument for you. Construct your argument in your own words and cite authorities in the field for support.

Anticipate and counter objections -- Do not ignore sources that seem to contradict your position or that offer arguments different from your own. Instead, use them to give voice to opposing points of view before you counter them.