UNST High School Senior Inquiry: Evaluate Sources
SIFT Method of Information Evaluation
The following is adapted from the Check, Please! Starter Course. 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.
The infographic below shows the steps of SIFT: Stop, Investigate the source, Find trusted coverage, Trace claims, quotes and media to the original context.
The first move is the simplest. STOP reminds you of two things:
- When you first hit a page and start to read it — STOP. Do you know and trust the website or source of the information? If you don't, use the other moves to get a sense of what you're looking at. Don't read it or share it until you know what it is.
- After you begin the process it can be easy to go down a rabbit hole, chasing after more and more obscure facts. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed in your fact-checking efforts, STOP and take a second to remind yourself what your goal is. Adjust your strategy if it isn't working. Make sure you approach the problem at the right amount of depth for your purpose.
Investigate the Source
The key idea is to know what you're reading before you read it.
- Look OUTSIDE of the website to investigate the SOURCE of the information. Wikipedia is great for this (most English language publications will have a wikipedia page) or use Google.
- On social media, investigate the individual or organization that posted the information. Even quickly using the "hover" technique will help you better understand the source.
Find Trusted Coverage
Sometimes you don't care about the particular article that reaches you. You care about the claim the article is making. You want to know if it is true or false. You want to know if it represents a consensus viewpoint, or if it is the subject of much disagreement.
In this case your best strategy is to ignore the source that reached you and look for other trusted reporting or analysis on the claim. Open up a new tab and find the best source you can that covers this, or, just as importantly, scan multiple sources to see what the consensus seems to be. In these cases we encourage you to "find trusted coverage" that better suits your needs — more trusted, more in-depth, or maybe just more varied.
Trace Claims, Quotes, and Media Back to the Original Context
A lot of things you find on the internet have been stripped of context. Maybe there's a video of a fight between two people. But what happened before that? Who started it? What was clipped out of the video and what stayed in? Maybe a claim is made about a new medical treatment supposedly based on a research paper — but you're not certain if the paper supports it.
In these cases we'll have you trace the claim, quote, or media back to the source, so you can see it in its original context and get a sense if the version you saw was accurately presented.
- If the article refers to an original study or news article, click through to follow links to claims
- Look at the original context. Was the claim, quote, or media fairly represented?
Limit your search results to a particular domain
Example: I want to find government sources about vaccines.
What to type in the search box: vaccines site:.gov
Limit your search results to a specific website
Example: I want to search The Oregonian for imformation about flouride in my drinking water.
What to type in the search box: flouride water site:.oregonlive.com
For more Google search options, look for the Settings link under the main search on your results page. Then, find the Advanced Search link.
These tips and tricks are not necessarily limited to Google. Check the search engine of your choice for advanced options, often listed under More at the top of the search screen.