Consider the Sources

Dive deeper to consider the original sources of your news.

When you encounter a news story that's of interest or perhaps seems sketchy, do what scientists do—dive into the primary literature for a deeper look. It might not always be possible, but if you can, click deeper or search to find an institutional press release or web story, a research team's home page, or the original research article or report.

Check the Authorship

It is good practice to vet the author of a news story or social-media post by clicking on their byline to view a biography and previous stories. If no link is available, conduct an Internet search on the author's name. Learning more about an author can reveal whether they are an actual person or a "bot," and, if real, their level of experience and knowledge of the story topic. VIMS' "How to Spot Fake News" web pages were written by David Malmquist, Director of News & Media Services at VIMS.

Vet the Website

You can gain knowledge concerning a website, its mission, and funding source(s) by visiting its "About" or "Contact Us" page. Be wary of a contact page that displays only a single e-mail address. Also check that the web address in your web browser's menubar agrees with the reputed source of the news story. A site whose web address begins with "https" is more secure and more likely to be legitimate than one beginning with "http." Also be familiar with these common endings:

  • edu (Educational organizations)
  • gov (Governmental organizations)
  • com (Commercial sites)
  • org (Non-Profits and similar)
  • net (Open to anyone)

A full list of these endings is available via Wikimedia.

The Snopes fact-checking website offers a list of fake-news sites and those that promulgate Internet hoaxes. We also offer a select list of reputable web sites for information in the field of marine science and climate change. Retraction Watch is a useful site for monitoring scientific malfeasance.

Follow the links

Click the links in a story to determine if they actually connect to the indicated target; then read the linked content to determine if it actually supports the argument in the original post. Fake news sites will often provide links to content provided by other, reputable sources to lend a veneer of authenticity to their own post, while betting that most people will never click the link to determine its authenticity, relevance, or agreement.

Check the Date

It is always a good idea to check the date of a linked story to ensure that it is appropriate to the context of the present-day story or social-media post. While an older story may provide valuable historical context for a current event, be wary of content that presents old news as current news in order to obfuscate or inflame.

What we do at VIMS

On the VIMS web site, research-based stories include a link to the original article(s) and the appropriate lab group. They are also subject to review by the researcher(s) and colleagues before posting. If the journal article reported on is behind a paywall or requires a subscription, you can work with a librarian to get a copy. Our social-media posts will always link back to primary or secondary content if possible.

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