When looking for reliable information when doing your research, it is important to look for specific information. If you can't find this information, or if it any of the information seems unrealistic, it probably is not a website you should use.
Who created the page?
• Is there an “about us” section?
• Do they list credentials?
• Is there contact information?
• Who is the intended audience?
When was this article posted?
• Is it current?
• Has it been updated recently?
What information are you getting?
• Are there multiple points of view represented?
• Does the author use OPINION words, such as always, never, least, greatest, best, worst, all, none, should, or most?
• What is the tone? Is it serious? Does it contain elements of parody, satire, or irony?
• Can the information be verified through other sources?
Where is this webpage located?
• Look at the URL. Is this a personal page or site?
• What is the domain (.com, .org, .net, .edu, .gov)?
Why would I use this site as a source of information?
• Can I verify this information?
• Why was this site published? Was it to entertain, to inform, to explain, to persuade, to sell, or some combination of these things?
Look at the images, asking yourself the following questions:
Who created the images? Is credit given?
Do they look like they have been changed with a photo-enhancing program?
• Are shadows consistent?
• Are there jagged edges?
• Are there identical objects in the photograph?
• Could the scene in the photo really have happened?
4. Explore how the site is viewed by others:
What sites link to it? (You can find out using Google by entering link: URL of the website)
Use a search engine for the topic. What sites come up?
Look for quality, asking yourself the following questions:
Does the overall design look professional?
Are there any spelling mistakes or other writing errors?
Are links credible or broken?
Are there any advertisements?
Pay attention to the domain and URL.
Established news organizations usually own their domains and they have a standard look that you are probably familiar with. Sites with such endings like .com.co should make you raise your eyebrows and tip you off that you need to dig around more to see if they can be trusted. This is true even when the site looks professional and has semi-recognizable logos. For example, abcnews.com is a legitimate news source, but abcnews.com.co is not, despite its similar appearance.
Read the "About Us" section
Most sites will have a lot of information about the news outlet, the company that runs it, members of leadership, and the mission and ethics statement behind an organization. The language used here is straightforward. If it's melodramatic and seems overblown, you should be skeptical. Also, you should be able to find out more information about the organization's leaders in places other than that site.
Look at the quotes in a story
Or rather, look at the lack of quotes. Most publications have multiple sources in each story who are professionals and have expertise in the fields they talk about. If it's a serious or controversial issue, there are more likely to be quotes — and lots of them. Look for professors or other academics who can speak to the research they've done. And if they are talking about research, look up those studies.
Look at who said them
Then, see who said the quotes, and what they said. Are they a reputable source with a title that you can verify through a quick Google search? Say you're looking at a story and it says President Obama said he wanted to take everyone's guns away. And then there's a quote. Obama is an official who has almost everything he says recorded and archived. There are transcripts for pretty much any address or speech he has given. Google those quotes. See what the speech was about, who he was addressing and when it happened. Even if he did an exclusive interview with a publication, that same quote will be referenced in other stories, saying he said it while talking to the original publication.
Check the comments
A lot of these fake and misleading stories are shared on social media platforms. Headlines are meant to get the reader's attention, but they're also supposed to accurately reflect what the story is about. Lately, that hasn't been the case. Headlines often will be written in exaggerated language with the intention of being misleading and then attached to stories that are about a completely different topic or just not true. These stories usually generate a lot of comments on Facebook or Twitter. If a lot of these comments call out the article for being fake or misleading, it probably is.
Reverse image search
A picture should be accurate in illustrating what the story is about. This often doesn't happen. If people who write these fake news stories don't even leave their homes or interview anyone for the stories, it's unlikely they take their own pictures. Do a little detective work and reverse search for the image on Google. You can do this by right-clicking on the image and choosing to search Google for it. If the image is appearing on a lot of stories about many different topics, there's a good chance it's not actually an image of what it says it was on the first story.