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CHEM 151 (Roberts): Choosing good websites

Lateral reading to verify credibility of websites

Lateral reading is basically searching for information about a source while you are reading it; you are checking for currency, relevancy, authority, accuracy, and purpose (CRAAP method) by reading what other sites say about your source. This is different from vertical reading where you apply the CRAAP method using only the information the site itself provides you.

The concept of lateral reading originated from research by the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG) under Sam Wineburg, the founder and executive director, and is used by professional fact checkers.

Watch this video from the Stanford History Education Group to learn more.

So, to read laterally:

  • Open lots of tabs in your browser.
  • Get off the site you are on.
  • Do a deliberate Google search for the source or information you are evaluating.
  • Read what trusted and reliable sources are saying about the site or claim. Try to find four or five other sources that discuss your source. (If you can't find that many, that's a sign that your source might not be good.)

adapted with permission from Piedmont Virginia Community College Library

Google's advanced search commands


 1. Site command: Google's site command will narrow or limit your search results to specific types of websites.

  • Government site:gov
  • Organization site:org
  • Educational site:edu
  • Military site:mil

Example:  vaccines controversy site:edu

2. Phrase searching

Use quotation marks "  " to search a specific phrase.
Example: "food poisoning" or "identity theft" or "early childhood education"

3. Set date range (Google -> Tools -> Custom date range)


Google Scholar searches internet-based scholarly journal articles, academic theses, and pages from university and college websites, which may contain sample student papers and other student-generated content -  remember to evaluate any sources found on Google Scholar!

Google Scholar can be great for finding scholarly articles from the 1970's and earlier, which are not yet included in online databases.

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Evaluating websites: 6 questions