THE BLOG
02/19/2014 12:08 pm ET Updated Apr 21, 2014

The Challange and Dilemma: Fact Checking in Journalism and Research

A well-written and thought-provoking article can be totally discredited by neglectful fact checking. When a reader comes across an article on a subject matter that they are interested in, that reader expects to receive accurate information. As a journalist, it is important to ensure that the article that is produced is as accurate as it can be. Fact checking is the best way to be confident in the information contained in our article.

Fact checking seems to be intimidating at first. The internet is a great resource, however, it is full of information that may or may not actually be accurate. It is probably useful, before committing ourselves to information that we have found strictly through internet research or word of mouth, make a nuanced job of fact-checking. To do this, you probably we can begin by:

1. Reading the material. The material may be a mixture of opinion and fact. Determine what facts are included. These will be the focus of our fact-checking journey. It is a good idea to read through the material a few times, and even to have a friend or colleague read it over as well in case something has been overlooked.

2. Once we are armed with your facts, we are ready to investigate the validity of these facts. If these facts are about a certain topic, there are a few ways to look deeper into their accuracy.

First, how did we obtain our fact? Was it from a reliable source? We should research our source to see if there have been claims of false statements. If the source is valid then we can cite the source.

Next, we should also go beyond the source. Where did this source get the information from? It can be a bit like a treasure hunt as we look for the original author of the fact. Is the original author a reliable source?

3. Once we have done this with each of your facts it is time to expand our information. We can do this by research experts on the subject of our article. Getting various opinions from experts on the validity of our facts will not only authenticate them, it will give our article a more well-rounded view.

4. Some topics may be harder to fact check than others. If there is a piece of information that is difficult to track down the source of there are a few resources available. Some libraries can do some of the research! By submitting a request for information, the librarians will research the topic and provide any information that is found. There are also resources such as Politifact and FactCheck that provide fact-checking services.

I think we need to keep track of our facts and our sources. Although not all articles will need this information, it is a good thing to keep track of our research. If in the future there is an opportunity to expand the article, the resources will already be available to do so. Previous article topics are a great way to get ideas for more articles as well by looking back through related subject matters.

It seems that there are many ways to accomplish fact checking. It is the duty of any journalist to provide clear and accurate information to readers. If we choose to delegate the job, you run the risk of publishing information that is inaccurate, with your name attached to it. With consistent fact checking, we will hopefully build a good reputation in the view of publications and readers alike.

Majid Rafizadeh, an American political scientist and journalist, is president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He is originally from Islamic Republic of Iran and Syria.