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WRT 101S - Desert Vista -Evaluating Resources: Lateral Reading

Lateral Reading vs Vertical Reading


"The historians and students read vertically -- staying within the original website in question to evaluate its reliability." (Spector)

Vertical readers are often duped by unreliable indicators such as:

  •  a professional-looking name and logo
  •  scholarly or reputable references
  •  a .org URL
  •  a polished "About Us" page claiming a nonprofit status



"The fact checkers read laterally -- quickly scanning the website in question but then opening a series of additional browser tabs, seeking context and perspective from other sites." (Spector)

Lateral readers exercise habits that lead to more thorough and efficient evaluation of information/sources such as:

  • search for the site/article on fact-checking sites
  • search the web for the owner or publisher of the site
  • search for pages linking to the site
  • follow references back to any original sources
  • research what other sites say about the source

Kalamazoo College

Lateral reading: Instead of staying with one website or article, you might need to jump around a bit. Open multiple tabs in your browser to follow links found within the source and do supplemental searches on names, organizations or topics you find. These additional perspectives will help you to evaluate the original article and can end up saving you time.

Things to remember:

  • The top result on Google is not always the best. Take a moment to scan the results and skim the snippets beneath the links.
  • Just because a website looks professional or credible doesn't mean that it is.
  • Sometimes you can find out more about a website by leaving the site itself.
  • You can use the command-F keyboard shortcut to search within an article for a name, group, or word.
  • Right-click on a link to open in a new tab.


Wineburg, Sam and McGrew, Sarah. Lateral Reading: Reading Less and Learning More When Evaluating Digital Information (October 6, 2017). Stanford History Education Group Working Paper No. 2017-A1. Available at SSRN:

Vertical vs Lateral Reading Website Evaluation

By the University of Louisville Libraries