The Evidence

During the 2020/21 school year CIVIX conducted a Canada-wide study of 2,324 students in grades 7 to 12 to evaluate the efficacy of CTRL-F.

Carried out with external evaluators, this research was the first to look at what Canadian students actually do when asked to evaluate online information.

Results confirmed both that students lack the skills to evaluate online information, and that CTRL-F substantially improves their ability to verify sources and claims.

View the report

Rigorous research, world leading experts

Before beginning the CTRL-F program, students completed a test of their ability to evaluate online sources and claims. They were given real-life examples, asked to rate their level of trust and explain their answers. Responses were coded for the strategies they used. One week after completing CTRL-F, students were given a comparable post-assessment.

The research was planned and data analyzed by educational psychologists from the City University of New York who are experts in the lateral reading assessment. Stanford History Education Group consulted on the study.

Students struggle to evaluate online information

More than three-quarters (79%) used a close-reading strategy — looking for signs of authority on the page, judging content by its appearance, or relying on their instincts to evaluate claims

Just six percent of students were able to identify the agenda behind an anti-LGBTQ group.

CTRL-F improves lateral reading, accuracy, and reasoning

Students’ use of lateral reading increased sixfold after doing the CTRL-F program. Students read laterally 11% of the time at pretest versus 59% at posttest.

Lateral reading helps students get the right answer for the right reasons. Before CTRL-F, students referenced meaningful contextual information 9% of the time in their answers to true/false questions. On posttest, this number jumped to 50%.

The CTRL-F skills stick. A delayed posttest delivered six weeks following the end of the CTRL-F curriculum showed no erosion in the use of lateral reading strategies.

Student Reasoning Example

Student A - Before CTRL-F

"The website isn’t cluttered with advertisements. There is contact information. They have stated their objectives."

American College of Pediatricians, anti-LGBT advocacy group

Student A - After CTRL-F

"After reading about the organization on Wikipedia, I found out that it is a source of fearmongering and misinformation about vaccines."

National Vaccine Information Centre, anti-vaccine group

Teacher Feedback

of teachers indicated in a post-program survey that CTRL-F has changed their approach to teaching digital literacy.

agree CTRL-F increased their confidence in teaching digital literacy and source evaluation.

plan to use the CTRL-F materials again

"My students have come in with various claims from TikTok and YouTube that they have either wanted to check together or proudly debunked on their own. A few of my students were really pleased with themselves for debunking claims they overheard their parents talking about that they had heard on Facebook or WeChat"