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Lesson Plan-Evaluate Credibility of Online Sources

Activity / lesson title

Evaluate Credibility of Online Sources

Target group

Middle school or high-school students


90 minutes

Learning Environment


Expected learning outcomes

By the end of the lesson students will be able to: Use key questions to evaluate an article and determine if its source is credible Answer the following essential questions:

  • How can I evaluate content to ensure that it is credible?

  • Why is it important to know the source of a message?

  • Why is it important to understand the goals of a message?

Internalize the understanding that not everything they read or see is from a credible source. It’s important to evaluate the credibility of different types of media before you choose to believe their content or share them with others.

Subjects and topics covered

ICT, mother tongue, foreign language learning

Method description


Tools / Materials / Resources

Computer with internet access (for every student or per team of students) The activity can be implemented individually or in small groups; some of the steps can be implemented with pen & paper instead on a computer.

Detailed description of the step-by-step description of the activity / sequences of the units

Introduction Credible content is believable and trustworthy. Each time you use the internet, it’s important to evaluate sources for credibility so you won’t be misled by false information. In every type of content, you see and read online, there are clues about credibility. There are five key W questions you can ask yourself when investigating any new topic, or evaluating the credibility of an article: Who wrote the article? What is the author’s point of view? When was the article written? Where does the author get their information? Why did the author write this? Use the five W’s to evaluate the credibility of an online article. Step 1 Open a new browser tab and search for a topic of your choice or a topic that your teacher assigns. Your topic can be about current events, history, science, your favourite book or movie, or something else. Explore a few of the search results, and select a short article. Copy the article from the website and paste it into your document. If the article is long, just copy the first few paragraphs. To quickly return to the original article, insert a link to the website in your document. Step 2 Sometimes it's obvious that a website is trying to get you to do something, like click on a link, buy a product, or share your personal information. But most of the time, it's not so easy to determine if a source is credible or not. Sometimes online content can seem credible – it can have an impressive layout or look professional, but it may have been written by someone who doesn't know much about the topic. To make it easier to answer the five W questions and evaluate your article, create a table in your document. Make a table with two columns and five rows. In the left column of the table, type the five W questions (see the Introduction). Leave the right-hand column blank for now. Step 3 - Answer “Who?” and “What?” Evaluating the author’s trustworthiness and point of view helps you determine their overall credibility. An author’s point of view is their attitude toward what they are writing about. To begin, ask who wrote the article and if the author is a trustworthy source of information. To do this, perform an internet search about the author. Try to find out more about who they are, other articles they have written, or where they work. If the author does not show up in an internet search, it could be a warning sign that the author is made up, and not credible. If the author’s personal or professional history indicates some type of bias, it might affect the credibility of the article. If you can’t find the author of your article, look at the website it appears on, or evaluate the organization that published it. Write any information about who wrote the article in the Who row of your table. Next, think about what the author’s attitude is toward their subject. What is their point of view? Does the author present accurate facts in an unbiased way? Or does the author seem to be taking sides on the topic? If the author is strongly for or against an issue, their bias could affect the credibility of the article. Write your observations about what the author says in the What row of your table. Step 4 - Answer “When?”, “Where?”, and “Why?” Answering the questions when, where and why will tell you if the information in the article is current and accurate, and if the article’s purpose is to inform or persuade. To begin, find out when your article was written. The publication date may be included in the article itself, or it may appear elsewhere on the website. Is the article recent? If not, is its content still relevant, or is it outdated? Information changes all the time, so even an article that is a few years old may contain data that is now inaccurate, or ideas that are no longer relevant. Write down your observations about when the article was written in the When row of your table. Next, try to discover where the article’s information comes from. Does the article include citations, such as footnotes, that mention the sources of its information? Does it have links to its sources or to data collected about the topic? Can you find similar claims in other sources? Search the internet to verify the claims made in the article. If other credible sources make similar claims or if you can find data that supports your article, it may be trustworthy. If you cannot verify the information in the article on other websites or in other sources, the article may not be credible. Write down your observations about where the author got their information in the Where row of your table. Finally, try to determine why the author wrote the article. Is the author writing to inform you about an important issue? Or is the article for entertainment and not intended to educate with truthful information? A tabloid article about a celebrity, for example, might share rumours rather than actual facts. Or is the author trying to persuade you to perform a specific action? For example, an article might try to get you to click on a link, submit personal information, or make a purchase. This is a clue that the article may not be credible. Write down your ideas about why the author wrote the article in the Why row of your table. Step 5 - Decide if Your Source Is Credible Add a new row to your table and write “Is the article credible?” There may not be a clear answer to the question of credibility. To determine the overall credibility of your article, look at your table and review your observations about who, what, when, where, and why. Think about the most and least trustworthy parts of the article. Given all of your observations, do you think the article you chose is credible? Write down your decision in the last row of your table. Then, write a sentence or two about how you came to your decision. Wrap-up Some things you read or see on the internet are obviously true or false. But most information falls somewhere in between. Make sure to evaluate the credibility of everything you read or see online. And always pause to check its credibility before you share content with others. Using the five W’s to evaluate online information step-by-step can help you decide if you should trust a source. Knowing how to evaluate different types of content and determine their credibility is a valuable skill for your education and your personal and professional lives. When you read information closely and think critically about it, you become a better participant and citizen who is able to evaluate current events and historical issues thoughtfully. When you use credible sources, you enhance your own credibility.

Tips for the teachers

The intro and the Wrap-up parts of the lesson are approx. 5 minutes each; for all other steps the recommended duration is 15 minutes. The activity can be implemented by students independently or in small groups, on a computer or with pen and paper. This activity can be implemented with a text (or texts), which are selected by the teacher. This would allow full control on the content with which students will work. What is more, texts dedicated to certain problematic (ecological, historical or else) would allow achievement of learning goals that go beyond the evaluation of the credibility of sources and could establish interdisciplinary links. The teacher could print the step-by-step description and give the opportunity to the students to progress through the activity at their own pace (suitable for older students), or he/she can monitor the progress and introduce each step to the class (appropriate for younger students). Teacher should check-in with participants during implementation: how they progress through the steps. He/she should support participants/teams who can’t cope with the tasks on time. but keep the timing according to the plan to complete the planned work.

Feedback & assessment

The main objective of this activity is to assist participants in formulating their own questions to evaluate the credibility of a source. The recommended assessment is through prompted discussion at the end of the session, which would help participants to reflect and share what did they learn through the implementation of that activity. For this approach, a checklist of skills and concepts would be a useful instrument for the educator. Such check-list might be used for leading the discussion into the right direction and for helping participants to reflect on what they learned.

Evaluation (for purposes of grading)

Not available for this activity

Intellectual property rights (IPR) / Origin of the activity

The prototype of this resource is from the Applied Digital Skills website. This activity can be copied, distributed, modified and used non-commercially.

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