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ENGL 101 - Bilandzija

Using SIFT To Evaluate Sources

SIFT is a source evaluation tool to determine if resources are credible online. You can go through the steps of SIFT as you look at sources to include in your literature. Remember that good research takes practice so if you need help evaluating sources, contact your librarian for help!

sift steps: stop, investigate the source, find better coverage, and trace claims, quotes and media to the original context

S: Stop!

Before using the source, stop and consider: 

  • Are you familiar with the website, journal, or information source where you're currently reading this information? 
  • What do you know about the reputation of the website or the claim/ being made?

If you don't know about the source or generally accepted facts in the topic, then move on the following steps to figure out if the source and/or the claim/headline/report is trustworthy and factual

Move on to the next step... 

I: Investigate the Source

You want to know what you're reading before you read it. 

  • Investigate the expertise and agenda of the source to determine its significance and trustworthiness. 
    • Look at the publication, journal, or website who published the text. Use tools like Wikipedia and Google to look for the publisher. For example if I wanted to figure out more information about the online news source The Advocate, I could type " wikipedia" in the search bar to find out more information about the source outside of the source (moving beyond the "About Us" section). 
    • On social media platforms like Twitter you can use what's called the hovering technique:
  • Who is the author? Does he or she have the qualifications to speak/write on that topic? Is the author affiliated with a reputable university or organization in this subject field? You can Google their name to find out!
  • What is the intended purpose of the information? Is the source trying to inform you, persuade you, or something else? 

Move on to the next step... 

F: Find Better Coverage 

If your original source is questionable, find a better source to determine accuracy of claim.

  • What other coverage is available on the same topic? 
  • Is this the most current data/facts/research on the same topic?
  • Are there other sources that confirm their research and data? That is, are they cited by other sources in the field?

Move on to the next step... 

T: Trace Claims, Quotes, and Media Back to the Original Context 

What's the original context? 

  • By finding the original source,  you can get a more complete picture of the issue or a research finding that is more accurate. Your aim here is to get to the the point where the people doing the writing are the people verifying the facts (the original reporting source or the research team).  
    • When reading online sources, pay attention to who they quote as a source and see if you can find more information in references or cited sources
    • If there are hyperlinks in the source that point towards original studies or reporting go ahead and click on those to follow the chain to the original source.   
    • If there is a bibliography or listed references, open up the original sources listed.  
    • Google key terms (or the actual terms) if the source has no mention of the origin.  
  • After you've found the original claim, quote, finding, or news story, ask yourself if it was fairly and accurately represented in the media that you initially came across. 

The SIFT method was created by Mike Caulfield. All SIFT information on this page is adapted from his materials with a CC BY 4.0 license. SIFT Outline used from LSU CampusGuide.

Other Questions to Consider For Evaluating Sources

  • Does the information covered meet your information needs?
  • Does it provide basic or in depth coverage?
  • What are its strengths and weaknesses of the source? Are there a lot of unanswered questions?
  • Why do the results differ from findings of other similar research?
  • What explanations have the authors suggested and are there alternatives?

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