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Fake News & Fake Facts: Media Literacy Awareness

Learn how language can be used to in a way that it affects the way people perceive reality. Unlike real news, whose purpose is to simply inform, the main purpose of disinformation is to confuse and manipulate people.

Learn How to Use Western Library's Database

Developing Search Terms

Avoid Biased Search Mindset

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A biased search starts out with an idea of what a person wants to find and looks only for information that supports that idea and ignores all other information.

Biased search, in the broadest sense, is any type of search that reveals only part of the universe of available information. Of course, it is hard to imagine a perfectly nonbiased search by any human being, so we should think about biased search as a continuum and question how biased the search is.

There are various influences that might bias our search. In some cases, it might just be that we look for information that is most readily available or easy to access—like the parable of the guy looking for his keys under a lamppost not because that was where he lost them but because that is where the light is.

If we are searching online, the specific terms we enter, the algorithm the search engine uses, or the placement of sponsored results at the top biases the search. Perhaps we are using a search engine that unintentionally ignores certain data or language.

Any search that is not fully representative is a form of biased search. When it comes to misbelief, a particular type of biased search plays out, driven by what is known as confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is a biased search that starts with a hypothesis and looks only for information that supports that hypothesis, discounting or ignoring anything that might contradict it.”

 - Ariely, Dan. Misbelief: What Makes Rational People Believe Irrational Things. Harper: 2023

Search Terms

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STARTING POINT:  Highlight terms that appear in your assignment



Types of search terms: 

  • keywords - a general list words related to your topic.
  • subject searches - see words listed or bolded in databases
    • nouns - the names of something or someone -- people, things, places
      •  example - "conspiracy theory,"  "Big Foot,"  QAnon, "Great Replacement Theory," ("critical race theory" OR CRT), Alex Jones, Tucker Carlson
  • Make a list of main search terms 
  • Create a list of alternate search terms - synonyms (different words that mean the same thing)
    • WHY? Different authors will use different terms that mean the same thing so If you can't find enough information using one search term, another
    • Consult a Thesaurus to find related or alternative words or synonyms.  
  • Combine search terms:
    • `"anti-Semitism" AND "fake news"
    • "Sandy Hook" and hoax

Video: Search Strategies

Example Articles: from Credo Reference Database

Background Information


Image of a Mind Map on Disinformation Topics

Researching Social Media using Western Library Databases

Multiple Topic Databases



Try out the Topic Finder Tool in Gale OneFile databases such as Communication and Mass Media (below). For example: you are searching for articles using the search term social media and fake news and a colorful chart of subtopics appears Click into individual subtopic cells to bring up a list of articles.

Topic Finder icontopic finder search box



Topic finder chart









Library Databases - Current Events

  Current Events Databases


News Sources - Library Database

Newspaper Databases


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