Using the 5W
When we are confronted with new information we need to apply our own natural skepticism and try to judge whether or not that information is to be believed.
If you are walking down the street and a stranger came up and started talking to you, what would you be thinking? Among other things, you might think, "who is this person? and why are they talking to me?" Information online, whether it is through news feeds, social media, or search results, is just like a stranger on the street. We don't really know if it is trustworthy until we have done some investigation.
We can start by thinking about the 5 Ws of the information. Who, What, When, Where, and Why?
Let's start with WHO? In Who we are thinking about the author. Look for information about the author or the organization that wrote the information.
- Is an author listed?
- Is it a person or an organization?
- Are they real? Can you find credentials for the author?
In looking at WHAT? we are thinking about what the author is saying. We need to look beyond the headline. A controversial, or captivating headline can just be clickbait.
- Does the information list facts or just opinions?
- Do they tell you where they got their information from?
- Can verify the information from related or independent sources?
It is important to think of WHEN? the story was published.
- Is the information in the article new enough to be relevant to your question?
- Are you looking for historical information?
- How old is the information used in the article?
WHERE was the story published?
- What is the source?
- When you are online follow up with the website as a whole, look at the about section to find out what the mission of the website is.
Last is the all-important question, WHY are you telling you this information?
- Are they trying to sell your something?
- Are they trying to convince you of something?
- Are they trying to entertain you?
- Are they writing satire, a joke to poke fun at current or past events?