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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:

  • Why does this information exist?
  • What do you know about the author, website, or organization?
  • What do others have to say about them?

2. Investigate the Source

This step asks you to take action on a source. Become a fact checker and read laterally. Go outside the source to learn what other sources say about it.

Source

Learn more about the organization and the author.

  • What is the purpose of the information? Why does the information exist?
  • Who are the people publishing the information?
  • How is the author qualified to write on the topic? What can you learn about their background, credentials, or affiliations?
  • What do others have to say about them?

Claim

Can you find coverage of the claim from other sources? Can you find consensus about the claim?

  • One easy strategy is to copy and paste a headline into a new window followed by the words “fact check”

Does your article contain bias? Use the following tools to help you:

Has it already been fact checked? Use the sites on our fact-checking toolbox to help you.

A Word About Domains

The website's domain is not an indicator of its credibility. The domain only tells you what kind of website it is: commercial, education, government, non-profit organization (possibly). You should evaluate the source based on the information it contains, not by the URL.

A website that ends in .gov (government website) is considered authoritative, but you should still evaluate it to make sure it meets your information need.

Practice!

Work as a group to investigate this source: The Effect Of Social Media On College Students

  • Group 1: Who is the author and what is their background? Was it reviewed before it was posted?
  • Group 2: What did you learn about the company or the website?
  • Group 3: What is the purpose of this information?
  • Group 4: Is this a popular or scholarly source? How do you know?
  • Group 5: Do they cite any of their sources, either by linking to them within the article or listing them at the end?

3. Find Better Coverage

Think about how much or what kind of information you need. Think about the information formats discussed earlier.

Other coverage might be more in-depth, more reputable, more varied, or more current.

How to Find Better Coverage:

  • Search specific domains on Google. [(topicsite:.gov].
  • Cross-search Google News.
  • Use Google's Advanced Search feature, which may help bypass some of Google's algorithms. Visit our Media Literacy research guide for more information on algorithms and how they keep us in a filter bubble.)
  • Search our A to Z list of library databases for articles, eBooks, primary sources, and more.

4. Trace Back to the Original Source

Good information should cite their sources. Scholarly sources will have a list of references at the end. Online popular sources may link to their sources.

  • Click on the links within the article. Are their sources credible? Or do they link to other information within their organization?
  • Was the original source accurately represented? Was anything left out or taken out of context? 

 

Images, Video, and Media

These can also be altered, taken out of context, or misrepresented. This happens frequently on social media.

  • Do a Google reverse image search to locate the origins of photo. 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 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