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How to Evaluate Sources

Learn a quick easy way to evaluate information

Why use SIFT?

It is a fast easy way to learn if something is accurate.

SIFT (The Four Moves) by Mike Caulfield

 

 
Stop Investigate Find Trace
Image by: Mike Caulfield, HAPGOOD- SIFT (The Four Moves)
 

 

Make it a habit to always check your sources for accuracy, even if you think they are correct.

 

stop
Stop

When you first see something on the Internet...

Stop reading

Stop reacting

Do not read or share the article until you verify that it comes from a reliable source.

Ask...

  • Who is behind the website or social media post?
  • What is their agenda/ bias?
  • When was it published?
  • Can you trust this source?

If you ever feel overwhelmed when using the SIFT method, stop and remind yourself of the reason you are fact-checking.

 

Investigate
Investigate the source

The best way to answer the questions list in the "stop" step is to do lateral reading or search the internet to learn what other people say about the source.

Know what you’re reading before you read it.

Strategies you can use:

  • Let's hover!: in social media hover the mouse over the users name to find out who they are.
  • Just Add Wikipedia: look for a Wikipedia article about the website/ author to learn more about them.
  • Control + F: Save time by searching for words on a website. Using a Mac? Command + F

 

Find
Find better coverage

Disregard the source you are getting the information from and look for articles from trusted sources that talk about topic.

Research the claim, not the source.

Strategies you can use:

  • News search cross-check: check other news organizations to see if they are reporting the same story.
  • Use fact-checking sites: save time by checking if the claim has already been investigated by a professional fact checker.
  • Reverse image search: When researching a claim, sometimes it is more efficient to search for specific images.

 

Trace
Trace claims, quotes and media to the original context

On the Internet information can be reused so many times the original meaning is forgotten. Look for where this information started to understand the original purpose of the claim, quote, or media.

Information out of context can be interpreted differently from the original meaning.

Strategies you can use:

  • Click through and find: An easy way to find the original article the author cites is by clicking on the hyperlink to the article.
  • Check the date: Older stories can contain outdated information, and you might interpret the information differently if it is recent news vs older news.
  • Trace an image to the original source: The fastest way to discover if a photo is either being used out of context or photoshopped is to use reverse image search to find the original photo.

Beware of

  • Stories with no sources: When articles or social media posts make a claim without telling readers where they found the information or studies to support the claim.
  • False context: When a person links to a legitimate article but summarizes it in a way that misleads people.

Mike Caulfield's SIFT (The Four Moves) is freely available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license. 

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