Evaluating sources can be difficult — there is so much information online. It can be easy for a small fake story to be taken up by news agencies that do not check. In addition, when searching in places like Google, the first page of results is often a combination of sensationalist stories and how-to/fact lists, which may not have been curated or signed by someone with the appropriate science background.
To make things even more complicated, scientists will often do outreach in popular publications to increase the reach of their research.
Here are some quick tips:
Google's algorithms cannot tell the difference between real and fake journals. They both look like real ones to algorithms, so pay attention!
Many of these scam journals add the names of prominent scientists to their editorial boards. These scholars may not even know that they are listed! Look up the editors and see if they list their editorship of the journal on their CVs. When in doubt, ask a professor, librarian, or trusted colleague!
Check out our guide to scholarly journals at guides.library.yale.edu/articlepublishing
These tips are mostly about avoiding fake news, but they can also be applied to some scam emails and fake journal websites.
Take a deep breath. Many websites post emotion-provoking material on purpose to get more hits and advertising revenue. Instead, focus on the arguments. Underline or take note of any specific passages that stand out to you.
Does it end with .com.co or .com.lo? abcnews.com.co is not the real ABC News website.
Check the About Us section or the author bio. What is their motivation? Are they an expert in this area? Where do they get their funding?
Fact-checking websites such as snopes.com, factcheck.org, politifact.com, and some browser plugins can help you identify fake — and overhyped — news. You can also see if the sources an article uses are reliable. Where do they get their data? Are they speaking with credentialed experts? People with experiential expertise?
Credentialed journalists and their publications often use something like the Chicago Manual of Style to format and proofread their writing. While yes, some people may have a defective keyboard and miss a few of the doubled keystrokes while proofreading, news articles have a lot of eyes on them as they go through fact-checking and editorial, so typos should be rare.
Check websites across the ideological spectrum. Note any who are interviewing credentialed experts. Allsides.com shows headlines from across the political spectrum so you can scan the news all at the same time.