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*English Research Guide*: Evaluating Sources

A research guide covering all composition, literature and mythology courses.

Additional Resources

The resources below give you some additional tools to have you evaluate sources.

Source Evaluation SIFT Method

What is the SIFT Method?

The SIFT Method is a series of actions you can take in order to determine the validity and reliability of claims and sources on the web. Each letter in “SIFT” corresponds to one of the “Four Moves."


1. Stop

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

2. Investigate the Source

This step asks you to take action on a source. Become a fact checker and read laterally. Open more tabs to go outside the source to learn more about it.

Start by Googling the organization and the author. Wikipedia can be a good place to start. (You're not using Wikipedia as a source for your paper, but as a tool to find out more about the source you're investigating.)

  • 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?

If your source is making a claim of some kind, 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? Try sites like snopes.comfactcheck.orgPolitiFactGoogle Fact Check Explorer, or Quackwatch (for medical information).

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.

3. Find Better Coverage

3. Find Better Coverage

Think about how much or what kind of information you need. Other coverage might be more in-depth, more reputable, more varied, or more current.

How to Find Better Coverage:

  • Search specific domains on Google. (for example - climate change
  • 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

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.