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Conducting Research for a Paper

Identifying Unreliable Sources

Understanding the distinction between misinformation, disinformation, and fake news can help inform the evaluation of information sources. It is also important to become familiar with the various types of misinformation, disinformation and fake news.

After learning about misinformation, disinformation, and fake news, if you are so inclined, accept a challenge and enter the misinformation escape room--The Euphorigen Investigation.

What Is Misinformation/Disinformation/Fake News



(1) The action of misinforming someone; the condition of being misinformed. (2) Wrong or misleading information. (3) An instance of misinformation; an item of misinformation. (Oxford English Dictionary)


The dissemination of deliberately false information, especially when supplied by a government or its agent to a foreign power or to the media, with the intention of influencing the politics or opinions of those who receive it; false information so supplied. (Oxford English Dictionary)

"... there are many problems with the term fake news, and one of them is the close connection to news as a format and as an independent institution. The European Union (EU) report from the independent High Level Expert Group on fake news and online disinformation suggests abandoning the term fake news altogether (HLEG, 2018). As the term is inadequate and misleading to explain the complexity of the situation, the report rather suggests using the term disinformation, which can be defined as 'false, inaccurate, or misleading information designed, presented and promoted to intentionally cause public harm or for profit'” (2018, p. 10). (Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication)

Fake News

An information ecosystem characterized by misinformation (the inadvertent sharing of false information) and disinformation (the deliberate creation and sharing of information known to be false). (Extracted from Wardle, C. (2017). Fake news. It's complicated. First Draft)

"Fake news, or hoax news, refers to false information or propaganda published under the guise of being authentic news. Fake news websites and channels push their fake news content in an attempt to mislead consumers of the content and spread misinformation via social networks and word-of-month." (webopedia)

"Fake news is made-up stuff, masterfully manipulated to look like credible journalistic reports that are easily spread online to large audiences willing to believe the fictions and spread the word." (Angie Drobnic Holan)

Types identified by media professor (Melissa Zimdars of Merrimack College)

There are four broad categories of fake news websites:

  • CATEGORY 1: Fake, false, or regularly misleading websites that are shared on Facebook and social media. Some of these websites may rely on “outrage” by using distorted headlines and decontextualized or dubious information in order to generate likes, shares, and profits.
  • CATEGORY 2: Websites that may circulate misleading and/or potentially unreliable information
  • CATEGORY 3: Websites which sometimes use clickbait-y headlines and social media descriptions
  • CATEGORY 4: Satire/comedy sites, which can offer important critical commentary on politics and society, but have the potential to be shared as actual/literal news

No single topic falls under a single category - for example, false or misleading medical news may be entirely fabricated (Category 1), may intentionally misinterpret facts or misrepresent data (Category 2), may be accurate or partially accurate but use an alarmist title to get your attention (Category 3) or may be a critique on modern medical practice (Category 4.)  Some articles fall under more than one category.  Assessing the quality of the content is crucial to understanding whether what you are viewing is true or not.   It is up to you to do the legwork to make sure your information is good.

Types identified and misinformation matrix (Claire Wardle from First Draft)

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