What Is Lateral Reading and Why it Matters?

Lateral Reading

In this day and age, staying informed is both essential and somewhat dangerous. The danger I am referring to is the extremely high probability of being misinformed we are facing whenever we read something, especially online. 

Getting caught up in a misinformation campaign can leave you on the wrong side in an important debate or even push your way of thinking in a completely wrong direction. That is where lateral reading steps in and becomes your possible savior. 

We all know that information is power, and here at Basmo, our main goal is to help you become the ultimate reader, regardless of what that actually means for you. 

What is lateral reading?

The lateral reading definition states that lateral reading is a technique through which the reader goes deeper into determining an author’s credibility, checking the presented facts from multiple sources to ensure their validity, and thoroughly researching that particular topic. 

This fact-checking technique is an incredibly important tool nowadays that can help you discriminate between real information and fake news and can help you stay truly informed at all times. 

Why is lateral reading important?

There are many reasons why lateral reading is an important technique. Reading laterally is going to help you tremendously in staying truly informed and exercising your detective skills. 

It helps you better comprehend what you are reading

Lateral reading is a very effective technique to use whenever you are learning about new concepts. Whether you are studying for an exam or simply learning a skill you’ve always wanted to acquire, expanding your research beyond the material you are already reading is going to help gain a much better understanding of the topic at hand. Reading what several writers have to say about a historical event may shed some light on what actually occurred during those times. As much as they try to be objective, every writer sees things a certain way, which is not always the universally valid version of the events. 

This expansion of your research and broadening of your views is going to help you tremendously regardless of what you are trying to learn about. 

It helps you avoid fake news or misinformation

The battle to control the masses has been at an all-time high in the past years. From misinformation campaigns dedicated to promoting certain politicians or denigrating others to anti-vaccination or anti-Covid movements, the challenges we are facing nowadays whenever we are trying to stay informed on the current events are quite difficult to overcome. 

Lateral reading is perhaps our only choice when it comes to avoiding falling in this informational traps. By checking the facts from multiple sources and making sure that we hear or read what other people have to say about the topics we are interested in, we ensure that we get the whole picture and not just one side of the story. 

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What are the benefits of lateral reading?

Here at Basmo, we believe that lateral reading is not only beneficial, we consider it an essential reading technique. We firmly believe that without it, no readers can really enjoy the full benefits of reading. That’s because it enhances the reading experience, boosts your comprehension and retention levels, and provides you with the guarantee that you are acquiring accurate information. 

You ensure that the information you get is accurate

Whether you are trying to stay up to date with current events, trying to learn about historical events from the past, or simply to fact-check the information you read about and ensure that the author is credible, reading laterally is the way to go. As I mentioned, even the most objective of authors sometimes let their own personal opinions affect the way they write. After all, writing is not a mechanical thing and involves a lot of introspection, so it’s easy to understand how even the slightest change of tone can be easily felt by a reader. 

You get into the habit of looking at the big picture

There are more sides to every story, and that is a well-known fact. Understanding that is going to help you become a wiser, more empathetic person. Lateral reading gives you the opportunity to train yourself to always keep an open mind and learn to always look at the bigger picture. 

We generally tend to believe intriguing information, especially during difficult times. Trying to make sense of things that are difficult to process (a pandemic, a war, a tragic event) leaves our brain exposed to drawing the wrong conclusions. Conspiracy theories and fake news feed off of our exacerbated need to understand certain events. And as you know, gossip spreads quicker than actual news. 

Making sure you use lateral reading whenever you are trying to stay informed is going to force your brain to consider more than one point of view. 

It’s great exercise for your brain

Lateral reading requires quite a lot of resources. It is not an easy task and it puts your brain through an intense process. You need to understand the concepts you are reading about, take notes, and use your own logic to decide what is true and what isn’t. All this is a very good workout for your brain. 

As you know, your brain works quite similarly to the way muscles work. The more you train them, the bigger and stronger they get. Keeping your brain agile and working properly is going to benefit you greatly throughout your entire life. 

You gain a better understanding of everything you read

Learning is a much more thorough process when you don’t take anything at face value. Whenever you are trying to understand new concepts or learn new things, lateral reading is going to help you ensure not only that you learn accurate information, but also that you understand it better and retain more of it. 

Doing active additional research is going to boost your comprehension and retention levels considerably. First of all, because you get a chance to read about certain concepts as explained by several authors, and we all know how important that is. Even back in school we often love or hate certain classes simply because of the way we resonate with the teacher. Studying alone is not that different. Some authors may explain things in a way that is more to your liking or easier to understand for your way of thinking. 

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How is lateral reading done?

To get into lateral reading, the first thing you are going to have to consider is that you are going to have to set some time aside for your research. Figuring out the credibility of a source or author is not always easy and generally requires some dedication and time. 

What are the lateral reading techniques? Well, to make sure you get the right information, the first thing to do is checking the credibility of a source. Whether it’s a particular author or a news website, the process is quite similar. Get ready to have a bunch of tabs open in your browser and start digging around. 

Google-ing the author or the information source is usually a good start. Read the things others say about them, see if you find any relevant data about their funding. Especially in the case of news websites or other information sources on the Internet, that is probably the most efficient strategy, following the money. If you notice any ties to questionable people, groups, or political parties, you are probably going to want to avoid getting your news from that source only. 

When lateral reading is not meant to actually establish the credibility of the source but to ensure that you get the best explanations for the concepts you are trying to learn about, things are done a little differently. Instead of digging around to discover the true intent behind certain claims, you just need to ensure that you get the most accurate, complete, and easy to understand information. 

To enhance the process of lateral reading and make it better and more effective, we recommend using a reading tracking app whenever you want to make sure you get the most accurate information.

Here’s how Basmo can help.

Basmo allows you to take notes

Taking notes when you read laterally is incredibly important. Whether you are investigating a source or simply trying to research a certain topic with utmost care, using the note taking feature from our app will make things easier and better.

Whenever you start a reading session, the note-taking feature becomes instantly available and you can simply start typing whatever you discover and want to make sure you remember. Moreover, the notes can be easily edited and formatted however you see fit, which ensures that you can keep them well-organized, tidy, and easy to read.

With Basmo you can keep a reading journal

Keeping track of your trustworthy sources can become difficult if you’re looking to constantly expand your views. With Basmo, you can easily create a reading journal that can act as your own personal database of reliable authors and sources

Create your personalized reading lists

We all want to read as much as possible and stay as informed as we can. But we often forget about books we want to read unless we create TBR lists and manage to keep up with them.

Basmo offers you the possibility not only to create as many reading lists as you want or need, but also to personalize them however you see fit. Keep you lateral reading lists separate from the regular or vertical reading material. It’s easy and convenient.

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Vertical reading vs lateral reading

Understanding what vertical reading is and how it differs from lateral reading can give you a much clearer understanding of how lateral reading can help you. Vertical reading refers to getting your information from a single source, and more often than not, believing that you know what it’s all about even after a very short reading session.

Vertical reading differs significantly from lateral reading, as you can see. While lateral reading involves a meticulous research process and a lot of time and dedication, vertical reading is done easily and superficially. While both come with a series of advantages and drawbacks, you will need to be the one deciding when each of them is necessary in your reading process. 

What are some examples of lateral reading?

Probably the most obvious lateral reading examples should be the way we are reading the news online. While some news agencies present events from a certain perspective, others choose a different view. This slight change in the way the same event is presented can lead to huge differences of opinion among the readers. Your safest choice is to make sure you do your lateral reading correctly and to try and read all the versions of the event to try and understand the big picture instead of getting yourself lost in details.

Final thoughts

Lateral reading is a demanding reading technique, but one that is absolutely necessary nowadays. It is your safest bet to stay correctly informed, to make sure that you gain the right understanding of certain concepts, topics, and events, and it will help your self-growth tremendously. Choose Basmo as your lateral reading companion and you will see how the process changes and improves over time.

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