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CAAMP-PADL Source Evaluation: Lateral Reading


Page header stating lateral reading


Until this point, the CAAMP-PADL method has prompted you to ask good, detailed questions about the sources that you are evaluating. The "Lateral Reading" component of CAAMP-PADL asks you to go one step further-- to look outside of the resource itself. 

When evaluating a source, it is easy to get trapped within a document, meaning that you take the document at it's word. If everything seemingly looks okay, you might not feel the need to look more deeply into the author's credentials or to investigate the publication's peer review practices. 

As you are researching, it is a good idea to have another browser tab open specifically for "lateral reading." Lateral reading is the process of looking to other creditable sources to verify what you have read in the initial article. Lateral reading helps to determine if a source is creditable, accurate, and to see if there is consensus in the field. 

In STEM, you likely already have lateral reading habits. Have you ever worked on a project where you had to find a selection of articles, and many of the articles drew similar conclusions? This is one example of lateral reading! Lateral reading can be used by professional fact checkers and students alike. 

Guiding questions

  • What do other scholarly sources say about the topic? 
    • When conducting a research project, look to other scholarly sources that discuss the same topic. These additional articles should consult and reference similar sources and should provide you with a broader knowledge base for the specific topic. 
  • Is there consensus across multiple resources? 
    • While a team may present novel findings, they should still reference the body of literature that they used in their work. 

The SIFT Method

In addition to the guiding questions above, you can  also use the SIFT method developed by Mike Caulfield to build your lateral reading skills. 

Stop: Look that the information that you have collected in using the CAAMP-PADL method. Have you recognized any potential red flags regarding this resource? Will this resource help to meet your specific goals? As you stop, slow down to consider if this material is a good fit for your work. 

Investigate: If you have been following the CAAMP-PADL framework, then you have been investigating the resource all along! Additional components to consider here are: Has the article been redacted or has the work ever been corrected? When possible, what do other researchers say about the scholar's work? 

Find better coverage: Look for other sources that also discuss the same research topic. How do these additional resources put your original resource in context? If you recognize that there is not consensus across the field, use elements of CAAMP-PADL, especially accuracy and author/authority, to determine which information source will best meet your need. 

Trace: Trace any claims or citations back to the original source. If you see a citation or reference to a scholarly article within another paper, if you have questions about the original study conducted, track down the original work. 

Image above is licensed under CC-BY 4.0 License by creator Mike Caulfield