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Intermediate Reading Course. Section 4: Reading Critically

Recognizing Facts and False Claims

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Keep the following in mind throughout this lesson:

A writer may present information as a fact, but it does not mean it is accurate or true.

Although we often think of the words “a fact” and “the truth” as synonyms, they do not have the same meaning.


For example, if a writer can write the following, “The Earth has two moons.” This statement is presented as a fact (emphasis on “presented as"). As a critical reader, you must still determine whether or not the statement is correct or true.

It is common knowledge that the Earth has only one moon. If you are unsure, you can always verify it by checking other sources. As a result, you will determine that, even though the information is presented as a fact, it is a false claim.

This is why it is important not only to distinguish between facts (which are objective and verifiable) and opinions (which are subjective and unverifiable) but also to evaluate the source and to evaluate the evidence.

Related Lessons

Check out the following lessons for more information on these related topics:

Recognizing False Claims

When we read, we tend to take writers’ statements at face value, so recognizing false claims can be difficult. The best way to avoid misinformation is to double check on the information for accuracy. Here are a few strategies to help you identify possible false claims:

Strategies to recognize false claims

  • Evaluate the source. Make sure to read texts from accurate, reliable, and unbiased sources. Avoid publications with a reputation for being biased and selling misinformation and conspiracy theories. Paid or sponsored articles are often made to appear like regular articles, but they are selling a biased point of view.
  • Check the writer’s credentials. Make sure the writer has the needed expertise to write on the topic.
  • Evaluate the evidence. If the writer does not support claims with accurate, sufficient, and relevant evidence, double-check the information the writer presents as facts.
  • Check the date of publication. Make sure you are not reading old information that is no longer relevant.
  • Consider the tone the writer uses. False claims are often presented in an overly emotional or aggressive tone in an effort to convince readers through intimidation rather than through a well thought-out logical argument.
  • Check the logical argument. Does it make sense? Does it address counterarguments? If not, you may be dealing with false claims.
  • Carefully check the writer’s conclusions against the evidence presented. When writers make conclusions based on studies or statistical information, make sure the conclusions are valid. Writers sometimes base their false claims on partial statistics or distorted to make the reader think that their conclusions must be true.

Using these strategies helps evaluating claims critically when reading. You can then make informed decisions about what you learn and avoid being misled by false claims.

Fact-Checking Websites

The following websites are free tools to check misinformation and disinformation.

Disclaimer: The above links are for informational purposes only. Their inclusion does not constitute an endorsement or approval of the content on the linked website. Use the listed resources at your own discretion.

Up Next: Understanding the Data When Reading

Go to the next lesson to learn about understanding data that writers provide in the text.