Knowing how to fact check an article is something every writer and editor should be familiar with. Why? Because giving accurate information matters.
Imagine reading what you think is a fantastic article that discusses how to change a tire. You think you know exactly what to do based on what you read, and then one day, you find yourself on the side of the road with a flat tire.
However, you find out that all the information from the article was completely wrong! If the writer took the time to learn how to fact check an article, it could have saved you a headache in this scenario.
That’s why we’ll discuss the steps you should take as a writer to fact check an article so your readers get only the best and most accurate info.
What does it mean to fact check an article?
Fact checking means ensuring that the writing in an article is correct. To do this, you assess the information, the facts given, and the sources so you know everything is right.
Fact checking involves some research and may take some time, but it’s worth it. It will increase your credibility, improve your writing skills, and make your article sound better.
Why does it matter?
You want your article to share only information that is helpful and correct, which increases your authority as a writer. When a reader has a question, you want them to find your article and discover that what you’re saying is useful and accurate.
If you were to write something that had inaccurate sources or you shared facts that weren’t correct, you can lose credibility. It would show that you didn’t take the time to properly research.
In addition, the better you fact-check your article, the more likely it will be seen as an authority on the subject, and readers will learn to trust your work.
They will feel that you value how they perceive your writing, and you will also learn new skills and gain confidence as a writer.
Here are some other good reasons to fact-check.
To share or correct updated statistics
Statistics can change, so it’s important that an article is fact checked from time to time just in case. Then you can update the writing with the new information to keep everything current.
And if you’re writing an article, you can share any new and relevant statistics that will help the readers to better understand your points.
Avoid fake news
If you fact check an article, you will check the sources that you’ve used. By doing this, you can weed out any information or news that is fake or incorrect.
Fake news is something that appears to be true news but is actually false. If you take the time to research any links or sources you use, you are less likely to include any information like this in your article accidentally.
If you fact check, then people won't associate your article with giving false information. So it’s best to always double-check everything and use caution.
Be sure there is no plagiarism
Plagiarism occurs when a writer writes content that was already published somewhere else. This is essentially taking someone else’s work and passing it off as your own or writing what someone else has written without giving any credit to them.
Though it can sometimes be done on purpose, plagiarism can also happen unintentionally. After all, there are many articles and web pages out there, and people are bound to write similar information sometimes.
Because of this, when fact checking, you should always check for plagiarism to be sure that you didn’t write something that someone else has already written.
Using a plagiarism tool can help you to be sure that your article is completely original. Not only does this make your work appear better to readers, but search engines like Google also take plagiarism into account.
If you take the time to make your article plagiarism-free, search engines may see your content as more valuable. Plus, you will know that your content is unique and be proud of the work you’ve done.
To increase your credibility as a writer
Credibility means that your writing is something that people think they can believe and trust. This is incredibly important for your future as a writer, as well as how much readers will want to read the content that you publish.
When you write something, you want readers to be able to take it seriously. So fact checking by searching for plagiarism, fake news, and incorrect facts can make your work better.
It also makes certain that your writing is seen as reputable by publishers, editors, and other writers.
How to fact check an article easily using 7 steps
Learning to fact check an article is pretty simple once you understand the process. You can, of course, create your own method for checking facts, but this can be a helpful way to begin.
These 7 steps will help you get started, and before you know it, fact checking will be second nature.
1. Read the article
The first step is to actually read the article. As you read, check for any statistics, dates, or facts and make a note. You can do this mentally or write it down if you want, depending on how long the article is.
In addition, look for anything that sounds like it might be inaccurate, so you can check on it later. Make note of any links or sources, as well as facts.
2. Research sources
After you’ve read the article and made note of the sources, go back and check each of them. Remember, you don’t want to use information from just anywhere. Be sure that the links and sources you include are reputable and trustworthy.
Good examples of accurate information are government and educational sites, as well as reputable medical websites. These are typically trustworthy, more than just a random blog page.
As you check the sources, go to the webpage or article. First, see if the webpage looks legitimate. You also want to find out if the writer is credible.
Be sure to gather some information about it before including it in your writing. Remember, your article is only as good as your sources.
3. Verify information
Any information that you give, including statistics, dates, and numbers, needs to be verified. After all, if you make a claim with specific numbers or dates and then a reader looks up the information, you want it to match.
Verifying can be as simple as correcting any numbers and dates that are inaccurate. What you write needs to match up with the facts.
This is especially true with any statistics or ideas that you are using to make a point in your writing. If the facts are actually different from what is written, it can be confusing or downright difficult for readers to establish trust in your writing.
You also want anything that you write, even if it doesn’t have a statistic or number, to be accurate. Do extra research if needed so you know that what you’re writing is true and not just a guess or assumption.
4. Check links
Checking links is a big part of how to fact check an article. As you write your article, you’ve likely added links to sources to verify the information. It’s important to go back to these links and check them.
Make sure that what you’ve written and linked to also matches what is on the web page. Obviously, you don’t want to have a link that has nothing to do with what you’re discussing in the article.
And you also want to check that you don't include broken links. If a reader finds that the link is not good or not related to the writing, they may not see your writing as helpful.
5. Use new information
A source from the current year is always going to be better than a source from five years ago. Because information can change quickly. Check the dates for any information you’ve added by checking the links.
The web page will usually say when the information was written. Ideally, you want to use information from the last few years, not decades ago, so that your facts are current.
6. Consider the viewpoint
When you are gathering information, as well as when you write it, consider the viewpoint. Does the information sound like a fact or an opinion? An opinion should not be treated the same way as a fact.
Unless you’re writing an opinion article, you want to use factual information. So be sure that both your sources and your writing are free from opinions and instead focus only on things that are facts.
And if you do want to give an opinion, be sure to differentiate what is an opinion and what is a fact to avoid confusion and misinformation.
7. Use fact checking and plagiarism tools
If you aren’t sure about a source, then there are tools that you can use to make sure that your facts are correct. Google offers Google Fact Check Tools to help determine if the information is right.
For plagiarism, one of the best tools is Grammarly. It searches a massive amount of online sources and makes sure your article is unique.
You'll have the opportunity to correct anything that sounds too much like what someone else has written, and you'll also know that your writing is one of a kind.
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Knowing how to fact check an article is a necessary skill for writers
Fact checking is a smart way to be sure you’re creating the best article that you can. Although it may not be the most fun part of writing, accurate information will help you to gain credibility, and your readers will know that your work can be trusted.
Editors will also appreciate this, as you knowing how to fact check an article can save them time. Plus, you can gain confidence in your writing and research skills.
By practicing fact checking and giving accurate information, you can become a better writer. To learn even more about writing, try using writing tools, and find the best places to write the next time you have a deadline for an article.