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Fake News and Evaluating Resources: Citing Fake sources

Why cite fake sources?

When writing with fake sources, you might wonder why it's even necessary to include a citation. But providing citations, even fake ones, will add a certain weight to your claims that no one will argue with.  And let's face it, it's not like anyone is going to check your sources anyway.

Fake Quotes

[image: photo of Patrick Stewart with the words, "Use the force, Luke]

Short, pithy quotes are great ways to illustrate your point.  If you come up with a catchy phrase or come across one on Facebook, you'll want to make it more respectable by attributing it to someone smarter than you.  Some good choices for this include:

  • Albert Einstein
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Aristotle
  • Socrates
  • Mahatma Gandhi
  • Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

If you have a quote that says something bad, and you want to emphasize how bad it is, then consider attributing it to one of these figures:

  • Josef Stalin
  • Adolf Hitler
  • Benito Mussolini

Do I need to include a date?

No, there's no need to include a date for these made up quotes.  Giving a date requires you to look things up and choose a date that sounds reasonable.  Ain't nobody got time for that.

Fake Source Style Guide

Citing your uncle's rant at Thanksgiving

Use words like "expert" or "specialist" to describe the person.  Use "round table discussion" or "private symposium" to describe the event.

  • In text example: As an expert in the field explained (Smith, 2016)...
  • Bibliography example: Smith, U. 2016. Personal Communication during a round table discussion on politics.

Citing your friend's cousin's Facebook post

Use phrases like "online essay" or "public forum" to describe the writing.

  • In text example: An online essay (Smith, 2017) outlines this concept...
  • Bibliography example: Smith, C. 2017.  "Regarding my thoughts on immigration." Public Forum.**

Citing alternative facts

Use a phrase like "everyone knows" so that people are ashamed to ask for a source.  If they do ask for a citation, simply tell them "Everyone knows you don't have to cite common knowledge."

  • In text example: Everyone knows that 35% of cats are from Mars. 
  • Bibliography example: none needed -- everyone knows you don't have to cite common knowledge 

Citing altered photos

Cite altered images in their captions, use a URL shortener** to obscure where the image originated from. 

  • Caption example: This photo clearly shows penguins living with polar bears at the North Pole. Source:

[image: photoshopped image of penguins hanging out with polar bears]

Citing fake news

Go ahead and make up the article's title - the more inflammatory or emotional terms you use, the better.  Consider using: "outrage!" "destroyed!" "everyone's laughing" or "you won't believe what happens next."

  • In text example: In this article (Smith, 2016), you can see that people are OUTRAGED at what's happening, but the politician absolutely DESTROYS the opposition.  You won't believe what happens next!
  • Bibliography example: Smith, F. 2016. "OUTRAGE!! POLITICIAN DESTROYS OPPOSITION!! You'll never guess how he does it." Online news.

Citing a satirical article as news

Cite as you would any other article, use a URL shortener** to obscure the source if it's a well-known satire site.

  • In text example: New Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden, calls many books and other literary works, "culturally insignificant" (News in Brief, 9/30/2016).
  • Bibliography example: News in Brief. 2016. "Library Of Congress Completes Destruction Of 70 Million Works Deemed Culturally Insignificant."

Citing fake books

Cite as you would a book.  Use adjectives like "definitive" or "classic" to describe the book.

  • In text example: The definitive book on the topic (Smith, 2016) explains that 2 + 2 equals 34.
  • Bibliography example: Smith, B. 2016. Whatever facts you need. Northfield, MN : Publish what you want.

**Using URL Shorteners

A great way to obfuscate where the information you're trying to pass off comes from is by using a URL shortener.  These simply replace the full URLs with a much shorter one that does not indicate where the source is actually located.  With, you can even choose the final part of the url to make it sound more respectable. Brilliant!