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Communication Studies

Resource guide for COMS Research

How To Read Laterally

Reading Laterally

Infographic source: Joanna Novick, Milton Academy

Reading Laterally: Checking Online Sources Quicker and with More Accuracy

What is reading laterally? Evaluate a source by reading about it on other, trustworthy sites.

  1. Open a few new tabs in your browser to search outside of the website itself.
  2. Start by searching the name of the website. Use fact checking sites like Politifact or Snopes
  3. Return to the website and scan for additional information, such as a publisher or author name.

How is your source viewed by others? Combining the information from your various searches should give you a good idea of how this website is viewed and, therefore, whether it is reliable.

The point is to look outside of the website, do not rely on how the website describes itself (such as “about us” page).

Sort Fact From Fiction with Lateral Reading

How To Use Wikipedia Wisely

Hari Sreenivasan on How to Use Lateral Reading for Fact Checking

Lateral Reading for Fact Checking

  • To get the full picture, you will verify what you read as you are reading it.
  • Fact checkers at news organizations use lateral reading - "hopping off an unfamiliar site almost immediately and investigating outside the site itself."
  • One reason digital sources are difficult to evaluate for bias is that the bias is often intentionally hidden, masking the true intent of the organization by making it appear more widespread or organic. (

Lateral Reading Takes Place Thru Google on the Web

Lateral reading includes:

  • Opening new tabs in a browser to research website authors or organizations
  • Looking for bias or messaging associated with organizations
  • Looking for hyperlinks or citations to other sources and organizations and researching the hyperlinked organizations/sources for bias
  • Locating several trusted sources to verify all information
  • Using Fact Checking sites

For more information see Stanford University's Lateral Reading and Civic Online Reasoning resources.

Fact Checking

For additional information about Fact Checking, see the Library's specialized guide. The following online resources can assist in checking facts and information for news reporting stories. This is a partial list of fact checking sites to get you started.

Accuracy in Media

The Annenberg Public Policy Center

AP Fact Check

BBC News Reality Check

Center for Media and Democracy

Is it Legit? MediaWise videos 

Media Bias/Fact Check


The Poynter Institute/Fact Checking Resources


Reuters Fact Check


Truth or Fiction?

USA Today Fact Check

Washington Post Fact Checker

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