Skip to Main Content

Evaluating Popular Non-fiction and News: Evaluation Tips by Time

5 minute techniques

  • Who wrote the article? 
  • What type of article is it?
  • What is the reputation of the publication? 
  • What do the article type and publication reputation tell you about how much work is likely to be required to verify facts presented in the article?
  • Ask why the article was written. 
    • What emotions did it evoke in you? Who benefits from those emotions?
    • Did you notice any bias in the article's framing? 

15 minute techniques

  • What other work has the journalist produced? What is their reputation? What do other news sources say about them? 
  • What other reporting has this publication produced on this topic? What is their specific reputation on this topic? 
  • Look for other articles reporting on the same topic. If the articles come to different conclusions, ask why? Does one journalist have access to evidence/resources that others do not? 
  • Look closely at the evidence used in a news article. If there are links to cited sources, read those. Did the article accurately represent those pieces, or cherry pick data or quotes? 
  • Think about the original evidence presented in the article. Is it the best evidence for the topic? Who got to speak and who was left out? What are possible biases of interview subjects? Does the article include appropriate language and geographic diversity? If the article cites video or audio evidence, what does it tell you about the provenance of the audio and video? Can you find other publications independently verifying the audio/video authenticity?

So you want to be an investigative reporter

  • Revisit the article after some time has passed. Has any new evidence emerged that would change the conclusions of the reporting? 
  • What was the public reaction to the piece? Does that reaction change how you interpret the piece? 
  • Conduct a thorough literature review on the topic. What kinds of biases do you see in how this type of story is written about? Can you identify sources that would address those biases? 
  • Can you identify and sociological or political factors that influenced how the story was initially framed and received? Whose voices were left out due to that framing? Can you find any additional source that included those voices? 
  • Do your own reporting. If you've noticed types of evidence or interview subjects who should have been consulted and were not, how would you go about writing your own piece that includes those sources?