Five Ways to Spot ‘Fake’ Research

Download Full Report: Five Ways to Spot Fake Research
Download Infographic: Five Ways to Spot Fake Research – Infographic (PDF)

With the introduction of new terms such as “fake news” and “alternative facts,” one area of interest that has not garnered as much attention is “fake research.” There is no denying the importance of research—research is conducted to make important decisions every day, both in our professional and personal lives. Sometimes, we may be too trusting of research results, especially if we see catchy headlines or results shared by a friend or family member on social media. Differentiating between “good” and “bad” research is critical. But how can we differentiate good from bad, or fake from real? Critical determinations of research quality are important to ensure the science behind it is rigorous and meaningful. This guide offers five questions to ask of research to help spot “fake” research.

Posted in [Research Library], IPR Signature Studies.


  1. This is the single best article I’ve read re: fake or alternative facts and research, and how to recognize it as such. A colleague and I recently took to task USC-Annenberg for its methodology to support a “convenience sample” re: opinions of public relations professionals about White House communications staff. The survey’s flawed methodology, leading questions, obvious bias and questionable ethics reflect just about all of your recommended questions. There’s so much genuine and honest human behavior – positive or negative – in today’s society that data shouldn’t need to be sloppily gathered and results falsely reported.

      • I would be happy to provide you with details. However, I am out of the country until next week. If you’re amenable to that timing, I’ve no problem sending you background, written areas of concern, etc.
        Let me know. Thank you,

      • If you’re still interested in more details re: my reference involving USC-Annenberg, please let me know. It would be helpful to know what information in which you’re most interested so that I can be as helpful as possible. Thank you.

  2. You may also decide to be guided by the answers to these questions.

    1. WHO DID the research? If it was one of the great PR or research firms it may more likely be valid than if done by someone, possibly a fictional organization with a devoted-to-the-public name–you may never have heard of.

    2. WHO PAID FOR the research? We have more reason to trust the results if the research project was not paid for by an association or company that stands to benefit from how the research came out.

    3. WHAT CONTRARY conclusions were reached by similar research conducted by others?

    4. WHO PUBLSHED the research which may be a lot more credible if results were published by IPR’s research letter or by the savvy CommPRO blog.

Join the Discussion