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Writing 60: Argument & Research

Recommended resources for students working on their Writing 60 research and writing assignments.

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Lateral Reading

Rather than using checklists, it is better to think of evaluating resources in terms of lateral reading strategies and habits. "Lateral reading" means that you should open up other tabs and windows and go outside the source in order to evaluate it.

SIFT Method for Lateral Reading

Here is a 4-step way to practice lateral reading habits:


STOP. Check your emotions. How does this source make you feel? Make sure you are aware of your own biases.

INVESTIGATE THE SOURCE. Open up more tabs or windows. Look up the source in Wikipedia, or use other fact-checking sites like Politifact or Snopes. Check out the author. See if you can figure out how the source has been funded.

FIND BETTER COVERAGE. Open up more tabs or windows. What are other sources saying about this same topic? How does this source fit in with other conversations about this topic?

TRACE CLAIMS BACK TO THE ORIGINAL CONTEXT. Things get misquoted, falsified, or taken out of context all the time. If you find a quote, claim, or data that is cited in your source, go "upstream" and look it up in the original context. If there are links, open them. If there is an image, try to figure out where it's from. If you can't trace things back, then this may influence how much you want to trust this source.

Ask yourself before you cite...

When you cite something in a paper, you are making a choice to include that source, over other potential sources, as authoritative. Ask yourself:

"Why am I choosing to give this source authority?"

This doesn't mean that you have to use "scholarly" sources only. There are a lot of reasons why non-scholarly sources may be authoritative. Maybe you found a news source that includes a first-person account or quote. Maybe you have an interview. Maybe you are researching a topic where minoritized voices (e.g. people of color, women, disabled people, etc.) are not typically heard in "scholarly" discourse. These are all valid reasons.