Part 3: Identify The Central Claim
The purpose of the following task is for you to identify the central claim of the article that you’re evaluating.
A central claim is a statement of fact related to the article’s main point or purpose. By a statement of fact, we mean a sentence or main idea that the article is conveying as a fact (regardless of whether or not it is factually accurate). An important characteristic of a statement of fact is that it could be supported or contradicted by evidence (regardless of whether or not it would be possible to find that evidence via an internet search).
Example: Rolling Stone reported: “Anthony Bourdain Dead at 61 of Apparent Suicide.”
The main purpose of the article is to report that Anthony Bourdain has recently died and how he died.
The central claim in this case is that Anthony Bourdain died of suicide. In this case, the central claim has two parts: 1) that Anthony Bourdain has died and 2) that his death was a suicide. A given article may contain many separate, distinct claims, but we want you focus on identifying and evaluating the central claim (which is related to the main point of the article). For example, although the above article about Anthony Bourdain’s death also contains many statements about his life and legacy (e.g., that he “worked in the dregs of the New York City restaurant scene for years” and that he later became “the executive chef at the French bistro Brasserie Les Halles”), in this task you should focus on evaluating the central claim only.
Guidance for identifying the central claim:
(1) Usually the central claim is described or referenced in the piece of article’s headline or title; if omitted from the headline or title (e.g. “Why ‘getting lost in a book’ is good for you, according to science”), it needs to be found in the body of the article.
(2) Sometimes the headline or title of the article contains a mixture of fact and opinion (e.g., “Heartbreaking: baby bear who survived hunting wound cries while he’s left to die”). In these cases, the central claim is the factual portion of the statement (e.g., “baby bear who survived hunting wound cries while he’s left to die.”).
(3) Sometimes the headline or title of the article is a question. In these cases, the central claim is the answer to that question provided by the article. Example:“Is Austin, TX getting a new name?”. In this case, the central claim is the answer to that question provided by content: “Austin, TX is not getting a new name”.
(4) Sometimes a central claim is about something someone said (e.g., “After visiting Colorado, Indiana lawmaker says medical marijuana is right for Indiana”). In this case, the claim you should evaluate is whether that person made that statement.
(5) Sometimes a central claim is about something someone said AND whether what they said is true or false. In this case, the claim you should evaluate is whether the source’s conclusion about what they said is correct. For example, if the central claim is “Roubini Falsely Claims Crypto Currency is Centralized”, the central claim you should evaluate has two parts: 1) did the identified person actually say what the article says they did? and 2) was the article’s conclusion about what the person claimed correct? (i.e., in this example: 1) Did Roubini claim that crypto currency is centralized? and 2) is the claim that crypto currency is centralized false?)
These guidelines should be used to help you identify a central claim; however, there may be articles in which identifying a central claim is difficult. In these cases, please use your best judgement.