Transparency: Methodology

An explanation of how we choose which topics to write about, and the process of assigning truth ratings to them.

Since the material we tackle can range from everything to analyzing whether a given image is a real photograph or a digital manipulation to explicating the text of a Congressional bill, we can’t describe any single procedure or method that applies to all of our fact-checking evaluations.

In general, each of the entries in our collated list of popular topics is assigned to one of the members of our editorial staff, who undertakes the preliminary background research and writes the first draft of the fact-check evaluation. Depending upon the nature and complexity of the topic, other members of the editorial staff may contribute additional research (or their own personal expertise) and editing. The final product will pass through the hands of at least one line/copy editor who reviews it for style and consistency (e.g., issues such as spelling, punctuation, grammar, adherence to style guide) and at least two content editors who review the work to ensure it is adequately comprehensive in its coverage of the topic, is even-handed and non-partisan in its treatment of the subject, and that its documentation and evaluation appropriately support the rating assigned to the item in question. Any piece that is not deemed up to our standards by one or more editors is subject to further revision and review before being released for publication.

Our research into various topics generally begins with (whenever possible) attempting to contact the source of the claim for elaboration and supporting information. We also attempt to contact individuals and organizations who would be knowledgeable about, or have relevant expertise in, the subject at hand, as well as searching out printed information (news articles, scientific and medical journal articles, books, interview transcripts, statistical sources) with bearing on the topic.

We attempt to use non-partisan information and data sources (e.g., peer-reviewed journals, government agency statistics) as much as possible, and to alert readers that information and data from sources such as political advocacy organizations and partisan think tanks should be regarded with skepticism.