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Evaluating Online Information and Resources: Welcome to Lateral Reading!

Welcome to the Polk State Library Lateral Reading Guide!

This guide was created to introduce you to the concept of Lateral Reading and provide you with some hands-on practice and activities to get you started evaluating online resources more effectively and efficiently. 

Should we care?

We are valuable commodities to everyone who is making content. Someone is always trying to get your attention, compete for your attention, and use your attention to sell productions or ideas. Buyer beware! 

Yes, we have a choice. We can choose to remain uniformed and unskilled, but... is that in our best interest?

What could happen?

  • Scams
  • Phishing
  • Identity Theft
  • Click Bait
  • Manipulation
  • Bias


Lateral Reading Intro PPT

How much information can you process?


Are we "consuming" with our "information health" in mind?
Are we so busy that we are now happy to just get by with consuming information  
"junk food" on the go?
Or... do we need to change our expectations and habits?

The National Academy of Science conducted a study in 2016 of 376 million Facebook users interfacing with 900 news media outlets and found that people tend to seek information that aligns with their views.

Pew Research Center, 2017

What about Library Resources?

Good News

Using library resources saves you some of the work of evaluating since books and journal articles (print and electronic) provide the basics about the creator and general purpose of the information. Plus, most resources in the library have already been reviewed before purchase. 

Some Bad News

Even if you use articles from the library's databases or books from the shelf, you still need to take time to consider the point of view of the creator and the purpose of the information. Is there bias? Is it academic or entertainment? Is it outdated or historically timeless?  

More Good News (Never Bad News at the Library)

You can always ask a librarian for help finding reliable resources! 

Stop by the desk, call, email, or pop on to Ask a Librarian and chat. 

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