Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

ENG 151: Information Literacy - Source Evaluation

The SIFT Method

The SIFT Method is one way to evaluate information. This method works well for online formats and popular sources.

Click through the tabs on this box to learn more about each of the four steps.

1. Stop

This first step asks you to pause for a moment before automatically trusting a source and accepting it as true. Don't share it or use it for your research until you know more.

Ask yourself:

  • What do you know about the author, website, or organization?
  • Are they reputable?
  • What do others have to say about them?

2. Investigate the Source

This step asks you to investigate the source or the claim being made. Become a fact checker and read laterally. Go outside the source to learn what other sources say about it.

Start by researching the author and the organization.

  • Can you find their credentials or affiliations? What other organizations do they work for or support?
  • What else have they written? Do they have a social media account with a bio?​​​​​​
  • What do others have to say about them?
  • Can you find a Wikipedia entry for them? If so, cross-check the information you find there.
  • What is the purpose of the information?

Investigating a Claim

  • Can you find coverage of the claim from other sources? Can you find consensus among multiple sources?
  • Are those sources reputable? Current? Biased? This media bias chart can help you determine political bias.
  • Has it already been fact checked? Use the sites on our fact-checking toolbox to help you.
  • Has the information been repackaged to make it more interesting to read?

 

Practice

Investigate this source: These Popular Immunity Supplements Don't Work, Say Experts

3. Find Better Coverage

This step asks you to find better coverage of the source or claim. It can help you determine if you have the best source for your information need.

  • When you did your fact checking in the previous step, did you find consensus among multiple reputable sources? Legitimate information should be covered by many sources and treated similarly (without extreme bias).
  • Other coverage might be more in-depth, more reputable, more varied, or more current. Evaluate the new sources you encounter.
  • When you search Google, look beyond the first few results, which can be sponsored content or ads. Businesses can pay for their sites to float up to the top, but that doesn’t make them the best resource.

4. Trace Back to the Original Source

Good information should link to, name, or cite their sources.

  • Can you track down their sources? Are their sources credible?
  • Was the original source accurately represented? Was anything left out?

Images, Video, and Media

These can also be altered, taken out of context, or misrepresented.

  • Do a Google reverse image search to locate the origins of photo. If you're on a computer, right-click over the image and select Search Image with Google Lens for Image from the pop-up menu. You'll see where that photo has been used and often find its origins.
  • Use the sites in our fact-checking toolbox to verify the validity of images, video, and media.

 

Fact check: Image of 2017 Los Angeles holiday traffic misrepresented as New Orleans evacuations