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ENGL 102 - English Composition II - Purtell

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.

 

SIFT Evaluation Activity

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