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ENGL 101 - English Composition I - Woodring

This guide provides research and citation support for your ENGL 101 writing assignments.

SIFT Information Evaluation Habits



  • Do you know the website?
  • What is its reputation?
  • What is your purpose?
  • How do you feel?
  • Consider cognitive biases.


Investigate the Source

  • What exactly is the source?
  • What can you find out about the website?
  • What about the author?
  • Is it worth your time?


Find Other Coverage

  • Is other coverage similar?
  • Can you find a better source?
  • One more trusted?
  • More in-depth?
  • What do expert sources agree on with coverage?


Trace to the Original Source

  • Can you find the original source?
  • What is the original context?
  • Has it been accurately presented?

SIFT Method for Evaluating Sources

SIFT is a series of steps to take when evaluating the reliability of web sites and their claims. It is based on an approach used by professional fact-checkers, and was developed by Mike Caulfield from Washington State University.

Each letter in SIFT stands for one of the steps:

  • Stop!
  • Investigate the Source
  • Find Better Coverage
  • Trace Claims, Quotes and Media to the Original Source

When you see a web site that you are considering using or sharing, stop and ask yourself:

  • Do you know and trust the author or organization that published the web site?
  • What do you know about the reputation of the web site, or about the claims it makes?

Don't use the source until you have found out more about its content, its creator, and its publisher.

Watch the video below, which highlights the importance of verifying your sources, and then proceed to the next step (Investigate).

The quality of your research is determined by the sources you use. Investigate a source by leaving that web page and looking for information about the source elsewhere. Check several different places before deciding if the source is reliable.

Watch the short video [2:44] below to learn about some of the best ways to investigate a source. Proceed to the next step: Find Better Coverage.

Oftentimes the source of information you come across is not important, even if the claim itself is. What that means is, we can try and find the information we're looking at in other sources. This helps to both verify whether the information is true and to find a better, or more trusted, source of coverage.

"Trusted coverage" can mean:

  • A track record of accurate reporting
  • A reputation for minimizing bias in reporting

These can be determined through various online tools, such as the Media Bias Chart or the resources located in the Fact Checking Websites box on the Fake News -- Checking Sources page.

As you work through SIFT more, you can build up a list of trusted sources that can become your "go-to," saving you even more time in searching.

Many times the information we encounter is stripped of its context, which can distort its meaning. It's important to trace claims, quotes, and media back to their original source so that you can understand the context and ensure the information is being presented accurately.


Google Advanced

Google’s Advanced Search provides easy access to more relevant results.

Add .edu, .org. or. Gov into the “site or domain” box to target more reliable websites.

Find pages with…

All these words:

This exact word or Phrase:


Any of these words:

None of these words:             

Then narrow your results by….



Last update:

Site or domain:

Terms appearing:

File type:

Types of Top Level Domains and their Uses

As a starting point for evaluating websites, one might use the part of the web address immediately after the "dot" (for example, .com) to try to determine the reliability of the information. This part of the address (or URL) is called a "top-level domain" that someone asks to have when creating their website. The websites you most frequently visit have top-level domains, or TLDs, that likely fall into one of the following categories:

  • Country Codes - two letter representation for a country, individual countries determine who may receive a website within their country code
  • Unrestricted - three or more letter, no requirements necessary for a website ending with these TLDs
  • Sponsored - three or more letters, a Sponsoring organization determines what requirements must be met and regulates whether they are met before allowing that website to exist.
This table provides some common top-level domains, the category they fall into, and their typical usage
TLD Category A site with this TLD can be registered by...
.com Unrestricted Anyone
.edu Sponsored An accredited US-based college or university approved by EDUCAUSE
.gov Sponsored federal, state, or local governments within the US approved by an independent government agency
.net Unrestricted Anyone
.org Unrestricted Anyone
.va Country Code officials of the Vatican
.za Country Code mainly South African citizens and businesses, but no policy excludes others from registering