Fact checking guidelines

ALPHA. This guidance is provided as a general starting point for anyone designing online content, or working on digital projects that involve designing new content or reworking old content. It is a work in progress, and we welcome feedback and suggestions to improve the advice. Contact us with your feedback.

Subject matter experts (SMEs) own the content on pages. They have the detail and should be engaged in the process of researching and writing a topic. They also need to fact check the final version before it gets published.

Fact checking is just that.  Checking that the information is correct.

Encourage comments on proposed changes rather than ‘tracking changes’. The final versions of content will be carefully crafted to enhance search engine optimisation, and structured to promote key user tasks. We want to minimise restructuring and restyling this information.

Identify SMEs early

Make phone contact with proposed SME first and:

  • outline the expectations
  • confirm that they are the best person for the topics assigned to them
  • follow up with an email. An example is provided below.

Sample fact checking email for SMEs

Hello

You have been identified as the subject matter expert for some of the content we are developing as part of the [name] project.

We think you are the most appropriate subject matter expert (SME) for:

[list topic areas]

Please confirm that you are the best person to be reviewing this information. If you think someone else should be responsible for any of the topics please suggest an alternative SME.

Feedback cycle and expectations

We often don’t have time to do multiple rounds of feedback, so we want to have just one feedback round for each topic.

It will be part of your role to make sure all relevant stakeholders have their say. We’d like you to collate the feedback and then send the draft back to us for a final edit.

We will be asking you to check that:

  • facts are right
  • all links are correct and go to the most appropriate content
  • spelling of names of any people and groups mentioned are correct.

The draft will be written to a set style guide, so we are unlikely to make any changes related to:

  • style and page structure
  • anything not related to your agency.

We’ll send the updated content back to you for a final review, to double-check that all factual changes have been made. If we don’t hear back within the agreed timeframes, we’ll assume it’s good to go.

Timeframes

The project turnaround times will be tight, so we will be asking you to review and get back to us fairly quickly. We expect to be able to give you:

  • [define time period - should be at least 2 weeks] for review of first draft
  • 1 week for final check.

We expect to be sending you pages for review in [x weeks]

Next steps

  • Please confirm that you are the best person to be reviewing the pages list above.
  • Please let us know if the timeframes outlined in this email will be difficult for you to meet.

Thank you for your cooperation, we appreciate your support for this project.

If you have any questions please contact [contact details]

Sending information for review

Once you have pages ready for review, send them to the SME.

Reiterate the expectations and the timeframes when you send the pages for review.