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CHE 104: Choosing a Claim

A guide to provide CHE 104 students with resources for the claims project.

Related Reading

What are "Claims"?

Finding Claims

News and Current Events Databases

Evaluating Claims

When you come across a claim that is meant to influence your thoughts, opinions, or behavior, approach this information with a skeptical stance and an open mind. In other words, don't be easily convinced but at the same time be open to any outcome. How? Be curious. Ask yourself: Who says? How do they know? Could they be wrong? Is there another interpretation or explanation? 


Evaluate Claims with Four Questions

Who says?  
  • What can you learn about the person making the claim? 
    • What qualifies them to make this claim? 
    • Does this person have a particular interest in the claim being or appearing to be true? Consider the affiliations and position that may have influenced the author's claim.
    • What is the purpose for publishing or posting this claim? Is it to inform, persuade, promote a cause or belief, entertain, sell, or trick?  
  • What can you learn about the source of this claim?
    • Take a look at the source's "About Us" page. Then, do a quick Google search of the group to see what others say. Are they upfront about their mission and purpose, or is there a hidden agenda?   
    • Does the source have something to lose or gain by publishing unverified or false claims? Reputable sources have reason to ensure published information is verified. 
How do they know?  
  • What is the evidence and how does that evidence support the claim?  
  • Are supporting sources cited or linked?  Are they current enough for your needs or out-of-date?
  • Don't stop at the title of cited/linked sources. Read the content. If source links aren't provided, look for descriptive keywords and see if you can locate the source with a Google search. 
Could they be wrong? 
  • Do a two-source test: Can you verify this same information in a different source? Don't draw conclusions from a single source or study.
  • Do the evidence and reasoning actually support the claim?
    • Is the evidence trustworthy? 
    • Does the author make clear how the evidence supports the claim?
    • Are there errors in the reasoning? Look out for logical fallacies. (See additional resources.)
  • Could they be trying to mislead their audience? 
    • Do word choices or images appeal to your emotions? 
    • Have facts been slightly altered or used out of context? Consider what occurs before and after a quoted passage, photographed moment, or video clip.
    • Do graphs manipulate data? (See additional resources.)
    • Look up the claim in fact-checking sites. (See additional resources.)
  • Could I be wrong? Think critically about the author's claims, but think critically about your own assumptions and biases that you bring to the conversation. It is vital that you are open to being wrong. (See additional resources.)
Is there another interpretation or explanation? 
  • Can a different conclusion be drawn from the cited data or evidence? 
  • Are there factors that weren't considered that should be?
  • How might different people understand this claim differently? Consider both the author and the audience. E.g., if you're left-leaning, how would a right-leaning person understand this claim? 
  • Intentionally seek out sources that will provide different perspectives to avoid confirmation bias, in which you seek only information that will confirm what you already believe. 

- Fullerton College Library, Research 101: Evaluating Claims

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