Fact-Checking: Quality Control for Writers and Editors—The What, Why, and Where
Writers and often editors need to…
- find facts OR
- find support for barely remembered facts OR
- check facts
…to make sure the author doesn’t publish errors, so look sloppy and lacking authority. Fact-checking (a.k.a. fact verification) can also save the author and publisher from a law suit. Fact-checking, sometimes, can also bring to light plagiarism. (For more, see Gathering Sources: 7 Tips for Citing Research Sources, Avoiding Plagiarism, and Easing Publication)
What and Why
While a writer is responsible for what he or she writes (including its factual correctness and that it is not plagiarized), editors are often called upon to be an extra quality control. (See, for example, fact-checking/reference checking in the EAC definitions of editorial skills.) Usually, an editor’s fact-checking involves checking a certain range of fact types (e.g., proper nouns, dates, and explicit statements of facts) against reputable sources and then questioning the author when there’s a discrepancy (and alerting the publisher). Notes about a fact check can be included in Editorial Notes.
And fact checks might result in immediate changes or in discussions with others involved in the publication, possibly lawyers.
Fact-checking can take a lot of time. For that reason, I often note reputable sources for certain subjects and use them again and again for both efficiency and great results. Sometimes I depend on online sources (which are better for noting within manuscripts or in emails to author and publisher both; after all, they can check them just as easily as I can) but other times I use a big stack of gathered reference books and cite them by title, author, publisher, date, and page number.
For an ever-expanding of fact-checking sources, see my Laura’s Go-To Sources for Fact-Checking on a Range of Subjects (link to come). I will continue to update it for my and your interest!