Motives, Word Choice, & Practice
We tell students to avoid biased sources, but that's honestly not possible. Nothing is neutral, so identifying those biases becomes important.
Sometimes the motives behind publishing are reasonably easy to discern, and that's a good place to start.
Does an inflammatory article come from a site selling merchandise (like Infowars)?
Is this think piece put out by a PAC with a clear electoral agenda?
Was a study funded by a corporation with a vested interesting in getting specific results?
Is this YouTube video monetized, and who benefits from that?
Is this article from a journalist working for a reputable organization?
It's not always obvious what counts as a credible non-academic source, so looking at the intent behind publication can help students move past confident headlines or well designed websites.
Looking at language comparisons between sources on a specific topic is interesting too. After George Floyd's tragic murder this summer, I saw headline discussing looters, rioters, protestors, and civil rights demonstrators. They were all talking about the same events, but the implications were different. Getting students to notice that jumpstarts critical thinking on the subject as well. The more outrageously a claim is worded, the more comments and engagement it gets, the more it's important to step back and consider the source.
Finally, I recently read a study(1) that showed teaching people how to create and disseminate mis/disinformation in a game scenario helped them recognize those same tactics in the real world. That makes me think teaching general propaganda techniques early on would be helpful.
(1)Roozenbeek, J., Linden, S. van der, & Nygren, T. (2020). Prebunking interventions based on “inoculation” theory can reduce susceptibility to misinformation across cultures. Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review, 1(2). https://doi.org/10.37016//mr-2020-008