Locating Official Government Information


In this fake-news era in which we are living, it is essential that our students know how to “go to the source” to verify information.  A key source of government information is the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) which provides free public access to official publications from all three branches of the Federal Government including Congress, the President, the Supreme Court, and federal agencies.

A series of webcast tutorials is now  available to offer guidance in navigating GPO’s govinfo.gov.  search engine.  Among some of the newer webcasts are:

Recordings are brief—from one to 11 minutes in length.  No prerequisite knowledge is required.  More webcasts will continue to be posted and announced throughout 2019.

Rethinking the C.R.A.A.P. Test

Based on the concerns of some recent studies challenging the effectiveness of using the C.R.A.P. test to detect “fake news”,  perhaps we should consider replacing it with the  “four moves” of fact-checking and source verification suggested by Michael Caulfield in his eTextbook Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers These quick and directed moves provide a technique to solve simple scenarios quickly and more complex scenarios in a reasonable amount of time. The four moves he suggests are:

  • Check for previous work. Most stories you see on the web have been either covered, verified, or debunked by more reputable sources. Find a reputable source that has done your work for you. If you can find that, maybe your work is done.
  • Go upstream to the source. If you can’t find a rock-solid source that has done your verification and context-building for you, follow the story or claim you are looking at to it’s origin. Most stories shared with you on the web are recoverage of some other reporting or research. Follow the links and get to the source. If you recognize the source as credible, your work may be done.
  • Read laterally. If you have traced the claim or story or research to the source and you don’t recognize it, you will need check the credibility of the source by looking at available information on its reliability, expertise, and agenda.
  • Circle back. A reminder that even when we follow this process sometimes we find ourselves going down dead ends. If a certain route of inquiry is not panning out, try going back to the beginning with what you know now. Choose different search terms and try again.

The author of the technique, Mike Caulfield,  provides some examples of how this technique might work:

Say you see a story that says that Jennifer Lawrence has died:


Well, has she died?

The ESCAPE method, like the RADCAB and CRAAP methods before it ask you to look at the evidence, think about the source, consider the context, audience, purpose, tone, grammar, style and so forth to figure out whether this is reliable.

The four moves, on the other hand, proposes to answer simple questions first. If Jennifer Lawrence has died, there should be wall to wall coverage of that, right? So check for previous work, and look to see if reliable outlets are covering this. If she is dead, they will be. If she is not, they won’t. Lo and behold, if we type [[Jennifer Lawrence dead]] into Google News we don’t find any stories about her dying:


That’s done in five seconds. But of course not all questions are that easy. Consider the following image found floating around Pinterest:


A short search of Google News doesn’t show any relevant coverage of the study. So let’s go to the next level and see if we can find the source.

There’s a link typed on the image, but rather than deal with that we do a Google Search and immediately hit the jackpot, immediately seeing a Google result on the issue that comes from Harvard.


We can go to that page and find the study is more nuanced than what is presented in the image (and also that there is no race data in the study — the image here is purely an attempt to use the trope of the “angry black women” to get more clicks).

Consider the difference had we spent time looking at the provider of the image for bias, tone, evidence, purpose and the like (a futile process we call “fact-checking the mailman”). By following the moves we quickly get to the most authoritative source for the fact and work from there, in the original context.

Finally, if we don’t trust the original source, or have never heard of it, we can “read laterally” (a term borrowed from Wineburg’s group) and find out more about the organization or publisher. Here we do a quick read on the source of the above study:

public health.PNG

We find that the URL is correct and that the school is considered a leading school of public health in the United States.

These are just a couple of the most simple examples. As you will see in the text of Cauldfield’s text book Web Literacy for Fact-Checkers, the “four moves” technique can be used in more complex scenarios as well.  I hope you take the opportunity to explore both the textbook and Hapgood,  Mike Cauldfield’s activities blog  to help empower our students to make the fast and accurate assessments our current information environment requires.

Any other ideas?