Skip to Main Content

Tutorial: Evaluating Online Sources through Lateral Reading: An Introduction (Part 1/2)

Tutorial on evaluating online sources through "lateral reading"

About This Module

Title: Evaluating Online Sources through Lateral Reading: An Introduction

Description: "Lateral reading" is the practice of doing a quick initial evaluation of a website by spending little time on the website itself and more time reading what others say about the source or related issue. In this tutorial, you'll learn about and practice evaluating online sources through lateral reading. This is the first of a two-part tutorial series. The second of the tutorial series is Lateral Reading with Critical Source Analysis.

Prerequisite: none

Audience: Anyone interested in strengthening their fact-checking and online source evaluation skills

Purpose: Evaluate online sources through "lateral reading," the practice of doing a quick initial evaluation of a website by spending little time on the website itself and more time reading what others say about the source or related issue

Learning outcomes:

  • Be familiar with click restraint and SIFT as approaches to evaluating online sources.
  • Recognize the importance of pausing when you have a strong emotional reaction to an information source in order to analyze sources more critically.
  • Apply click restraint and SIFT to completing an initial evaluation of a web source’s credibility.

Suggested time: 30-40 minutes

Suggestions for proceeding with module: To protect your device from malware, do not click on links that look suspicious, and do not download files that you do not recognize!

Suggested search engine: Google

About the Authors

At the time this tutorial was created Andrea Baer was a Public Services Librarian at Rowan University Libraries. She has been an academic librarian for 10 years. Prior to becoming a librarian Andrea taught literature, languages, and writing in various educational settings, including higher education. Her research and writing focuses on information literacy and reflective teaching practice.

Dan Kipnis is the Life Sciences Librarian at Rowan University Libraries. He has worked as an academic librarian for 19 years and has published on a variety of topics including digital archives and information literacy.

 Creative Commons License CC-BY-NC-SA
This guide was created by Andrea Baer and Dan Kipnis at Rowan University and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC-BY-NC-SA).

Next: Evaluating Online Sources: Part 1 Introduction

More Information for Instructors

Dear Instructor,
Thank you for your interest in this tutorial series, which consists of:

The first tutorial introduces the practice of "lateral reading," an approach to source evaluation that begins with spending little time on the website in question and instead leaving the site to see what others say about the source or related issue. The second tutorial, building on the first, offers further guidance on posing critical questions about a source while engaging in lateral reading. Both tutorials offer opportunities for practice and feedback. Below is additional information that may be useful for classes that complete the tutorials.

Collection of Participant Responses 

We, the tutorial creators (Andrea and Dan), are collecting participants’ responses to the tutorial activities in order to assess the tutorials’ effectiveness in teaching about online source evaluation. This research has been approved by Rowan University’s IRB Office - Protocol PRO-2020-225. Any individual 18 years of age or older can complete the tutorial, regardless of whether they choose to participate in the study. At the beginning of each tutorial’s first activity,  the respondent is asked if they agree to have their responses included in the study analysis and in research about the tutorial. The PIs also clarify that if individuals  choose not to participate in the study, they can still complete the tutorial and their responses will not be included in the analysis. If participants agree to complete either tutorial, they are asked to share their email address, organization/school, course name, course instructor, and course number.

Tutorials Structure

Both tutorials have two parts:

  • Part 1: The first part of both tutorials introduces individuals to specific approaches to online source evaluation, models these approaches, and provides an opportunity for practice in the form of an Evaluation Exercise. Participants need to complete the Evaluation Exercise in order to move on Part 2. 
  • Part 2: Once participants have submitted their evaluation exercise, they receive information on how to access Part 2 of the given tutorial. In Part 2 of each tutorial, they receive feedback on their evaluation exercise and do a Post-Activity Reflection. We also wrap up with final points to remember.

Proof of Tutorial Completion

If you would like for your students to show proof of tutorial completion, they will receive a message of completion at the very end of the tutorial. They can save this certificate as a PDF or a screenshot and can share it with you. We include instructions at the end of each tutorial’s last activity about how to save this proof of completion.

We Welcome Your Feedback

We’d appreciate any feedback that you or your students have about the tutorial and your experiences with it. Please let us know if you have any questions, and thanks again for your interest!

Best regards,
Andrea and Dan

Andrea Baer, History and Political Science Librarian (

Dan Kipnis, Life Sciences Librarian (