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Fall 2022 - ENGL 101 Cumulative Final Project - Prof. Stewart

Using the SIFT Method to Evaluate Sources on the Open Web

SIFT is a source evaluation tool for determining the credibility of online sources. 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

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? 

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?

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 the strengths and weaknesses of the source? Are there a lot of unanswered questions?
  • Why do the results differ from the findings of other similar research?
  • What explanations have the authors suggested and are there alternatives?

Video: The Online Verification Skills

Credibility Factors for Information Sources


  • Who is the author of the article or book?
  • What are the credentials or qualifications of the author of the book or article?
  • Is the author associated with a university at the time the material was printed?  If it is an organization, are they well known as a scholarly authority on the topic?
  • Is the author educated in the subject they are writing about? For example, Dr. Stefan Bradley wrote an article called For the Greater Glory of Whom?: A Perspective on OccupySLU about student activists. He is a professor of African-American History at Loyola Marymount University when the article was published.
  • Is there contact information for the author(s)?
  • Are you able to tell how the author gets their research funding?

Purpose & Bias

  • Who is the audience?  What can the audience tell you about the bias or point of view?
  • Who is the publisher of the book or article?  Does the publisher have a bias or agenda that they are trying to convey?
  • Does the source use emotional language to make you feel something as you read? (For example, Children are dying because we don't have healthcare!)
  • Are they trying to sell you something?  
  • Are there advertisements in the publication?  If so, are they for products discussed in the article?

Accuracy & Evidence

  • Do the conclusions of the article or book match with the conclusions of other research you have been reading?
  • Does the author effectively use citations and other sources to support their conclusions or findings?
  • Where does the information come from?
  • Has the information been peer-reviewed or refereed?
  • Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors


  • Are the information in the source current enough depending on the topic we are exploring?
  • Are the information within the date range relevant to our research topic?
  • Is the source being updated?

The Characteristics of Credible Sources

Credible sources are sources that are reliable and offer information that most people can assume to be true or trustworthy. Usually, credible sources:

  • Are relevant or clearly connected to the topic or thesis
  • Are created or written with authority (people connected with the topic, discipline, etc. and who have knowledge and schooling in that area)
  • Have a clear purpose or intent (why are they writing or creating the source? To inform, persuade, or entertain?)
  • Have little obvious bias (not intentionally presenting unfair or inaccurate information)
  • Use factual evidence or citations to support their thesis or topic
  • Are the most updated or current version available

Academic or scholarly sources are the most credible sources. They are written by instructors, other researchers, professors, and experts in that discipline. They usually have more complicated language and provide references or other sources they use to support their topic in the form of citations. Academic sources can most easily be found in library databases than on the internet. 

Evaluating Sources for Credibility via libncsu

Exercise: Evaluating Two Open Web Sources

Using the worksheet provided to you, examine Site A or Site B and determine Is the webpage good enough to use as a source in college research? 

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