Project 3: Applying Empathetic Information Literacy Individually

This page presents the assignment instructions for the third writing project in my Fake News first-year writing course—an individual research essay using the “empathetic information literacy” method to factcheck a claim of students’ own choosing. The page also includes an explanation of how I teach this project and a calendar of daily reading and writing assignments.

Instructions for Essay 3: Choose-Your-Own “Fake News”

This essay will follow precisely the same instructions as the previous essay—the same structure, the same 1000-word minimum, the same MLA formatting, the same grading criteria. So reread the instructions for that essay while working on this one. The difference is that now you will be investigating a claim of your own choosing. The claim should be something that is potentially “fake news”—that is to say, something that may be false or that has been called false. If you like, you may partner with classmates to investigate the same topic and share resources. But you must conduct your own investigation, find and read your own sources and write your own research essay. The only added step for this essay is deciding on a claim to investigate. Then, just as you did before, you will find examples of people making that claim and then launch into practicing the Empathic Information Literacy method, pausing, asking, caring, checking, and acting.

Some examples include:
CLAIM: Detox diets improve your health.
CLAIM: Cramming works.
Claim: Sleep is optional in college.
CLAIM: You learn best through your learning style (visual, auditory, etc.).
CLAIM: Spanking is healthy for children.
CLAIM: Some people are just born better at academics.
Claim: Global warming is a hoax.
CLAIM: Violent video games lead to mass shootings.
CLAIM: Millions of people vote illegally in US elections.
CLAIM: Genetically modified organisms (GMO) food is dangerous to eat.
CLAIM: Making abortion illegal stops people from having abortions.
Claim: The Civil War was not primarily about slavery.
Claim: CNN is fake news.
Claim: Black Lives Matter is a terrorist organization.
CLAIM: Feminists want not equality but for women to have power over men.
CLAIM: College is not worth the money.
CLAIM: Countries that pay for free healthcare for all go bankrupt.
CLAIM: Vaccines cause autism.
CLAIM: Accusations of sexual assault are usually false.
CLAIM: Essential oils can heal you.
CLAIM: It’s best to marry young.
CLAIM: Women are less happy in life if they do not have children.
CLAIM: Money can’t make people happier.
CLAIM: LGBTQ characters now dominate movie and TV roles.
CLAIM: Pit bulls and Rottweilers are more dangerous dog breeds.
CLAIM: You need to eat meat to stay or become physically strong.
CLAIM: Evolution is a “theory” made up without evidence to deny God.
CLAIM: White men now have the hardest time getting jobs.
CLAIM: The KJV of the Bible is the most accurate translation.
You may also come up with your own claim to investigate. The trick will be to find something that is a matter of fact, rather than a matter of opinion, and something about which there exists a lot of misinformation as well as sufficient credible information.
When choosing a claim, you will probably want to pick something that you already care or are interested or curious about but that you have not yet absolutely made your mind up about. That way you will be motivated enough to investigate but not so “motivated” that you cannot investigate with an open mind.

Schedule for Project 3

Calendar for Unit 3
Day 23
Read the instructions for Essay 3: Choose-Your-Own “Fake News”
Review “The Empathetic Information Literacy Method”
Daily Writing 18 Select a claim to investigate, something that you think might be “fake news” or something that has been accused of being false. Find at least two examples of people making this claim (or examples of people calling the claim false, if applicable).

Day 24
Daily Writing 19 Turn the claim you have chosen to investigate into a genuine question. Consider what the possible answers to the question might be.

Day 25
Find and read, watch, listen, have a conversation with, etc., a text or a person that will help you connect with the human beings—the actual lives—at stake behind the issue you’re investigating.Daily Writing 20 Describe what you did for today’s “reading” and then write or create a personal response.

Day 26
Again, engage with something or someone that will help you connect with the humans behind the topic.
Daily Writing 21 Describe what you did for today’s “reading” and then write or create a personal response.

Day 27
Again, engage with something or someone that will help you connect with the humans behind the topic.
Daily Writing 22
Describe what you did for today’s “reading” and then write or create a personal response.

Day 28
Find and read at least two credible sources on your topic.Daily Writing 23 Summarize what you are taking away from the sources and why you find them to be credible.

Day 29
Find and read at least two articles that present a perspective on the topic that contrasts with the ones you’ve already considered.
Daily Writing 24 Summarize what you are taking away from the sources you choose and explain whether or not you find them credible.

Day 30
Daily Writing 25 Based on all of the checking you have done so far, make a determination—it can be tentative, your decision so far, open to revision in the future—about the claim you have been investigating. Is it true? False? Mostly true? Mostly false? Mixed? Impossible to determine with the evidence you have encountered so far? What are the reasons for your determination?

Day 31
Daily Writing 26 Do and document at least one action based on what you have found in investigating this topic.Submit Daily Writings 1-26

Day 32
Work on Essay 3: Choose-Your-Own Fake NewsDay 33
Submit Essay 3: Choose-Your-Own Fake News 

Rationale for Project 3

In the final unit of the course, we move from investigating a claim together (a claim I choose and provide a number of the sources for the investigation) to each student investigating a claim of their own and finding all of their own sources. The daily activities mostly consist of reviewing the moves the students are supposed to make, having students share and discuss with their classmates their own work in process, answering any questions that arise during the process, and giving students structured or unstructured time during class to write. I have also found it helpful to break the class up into smaller writing groups and meet with them one at a time to talk about their work in progress, a form of “small group” conferencing swapped out for class time. Individual conferencing would also, of course, be beneficial.