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ENG 151 - SIFT Method for Evaluating Sources

This guide explains how to use the SIFT Method for evaluating sources. SIFT stands for Stop, Investigate the claim, Find better coverage, and Trace back to the original source.

Identify Your Source

Knowing more about your source can help you evaluate it. Is it a popular source with background information meant for the general public? Or is it a scholarly source that was written by an expert on the subject and published by a peer-reviewed journal?

The following explains some characteristics of popular and scholarly sources. At the end of each section, we link to specific examples of each. You can also click the submenu under this tab to see more examples.

Scholarly Sources

Scholarly sources can be found in library databases and sometimes on the open internet. Many scholarly sources on the open internet are behind a paywall, which restricts access to the content unless you have a subscription or want to pay a fee for individual content.

Content: Original research or literature review of other research; includes an abstract with a summary of the article

Appearance: Plain, no ads, includes charts and graph to support research findings

Authors: Experts in the field

Audience: Other academics or researchers in a specific discipline

Purpose: To share research and findings; discuss issues and practices in the field

Language: Uses terminology specific to the discipline

Sources: Usually includes a bibliography at the end

Length: Can be quite long, sometimes 20 pages or more.

Accountability: Peer-reviewed by other experts in the field.

 

Examples of Scholarly Sources:

Journal of the American Medical Association

Journal of Agriculture Science

In The Library With The Lead Pipe

Aging and Health Research

The American Journal of Sports Medicine

Popular Sources

Popular sources comprise most of what people read on a regular basis, If your instructor allows you to use popular sources for your assignments, remember to evaluate them carefully using the SIFT Method before citing them.

Popular sources can be found in library databases as well as the open internet. Sometimes popular sources on the open internet are behind a paywall and require a paid subscription to the source to view the full text of an article. This is common with newspapers. In some cases, a source will allow you to view a certain number of articles for free before they require a paid subscription.

Content: Broad topics

Appearance: Lots of ads, varying fonts and text sizes, colorful

Authors: Journalists, general writers, topic enthusiasts, sometimes not named at all

Audience: General public, members of a specific profession

Purpose: Entertainment, current events or trends in a field, popular culture, "how-to"

Language: Relaxed, basic vocabulary to appeal to a wide audience

Sources: Sometimes not named; may provide links; usually does not include a bibliography at the end

Length: Can vary, but usually short

Accountability: May be reviewed by an editor (news sites), but not always (personal blogs or websites); commercial publishers

 

Examples of Popular Sources

NPR

CNN

The New York Times

The Chronicle of Higher Education

Huffington Post