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How to Write a Research Paper: Understanding Fake News

Step by step description of how to write a research paper

What makes a news story fake?

What kinds of fake news exist?

There are four board categories of fake news, according to media professor Melissa Zimdars of Merrimack College. 

Category 1: Fake, false, or regularly misleading websites that are shared on Facebook and social media. Some of these websites may rely on "outage 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 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/liberal 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. 

Fact-Checking: The Facts

Guide content adapted from San Jose State University and MSU Billings Library.

Fact Checking Links

Media Bias/Fact Check (MBFC)

Links to publication and website titles using five board categories of classification: left/right bias, pro-science, conspiracy-pseudo science, questionable sources, and satire.


A professional networking website where you can look up the authors of articles and books to see if they're credible. 

Fact Check 

A product of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, this site checks up on political claims. 


A website that researches the claims of politicians and checks their accuracy. 

A website that focuses on urban legends, new stories and memes. They also cite their sources at the end of each debunking.