Evaluate sources using the SIFT method
SIFT is a simple evaluation method you can use to judge whether or not sources of information are reliable and accurate. Use these four steps when encountering information, especially if upon first glance it seems like very good or very bad information. Read Chapter 13: SIFTing Information in the TWP OER textbook for more information.
Think about what kind of information you want to get out of this source.
Check your emotions. If you feel anger, glee, vindication, etc., you should think about why you feel that way. Do you need to fact-check the information? Or investigate the source?
Questions to keep in mind while evaluating sources
- What kind of content is this?
- Who created it?
- When was it created?
- Are there any sources cited?
- Is there anything about it that doesn't make sense?
Know what you are reading. Do you know if the creator or publisher of the source is trustworthy? All creators have a point of view and varying motivations for sharing information.
Do some digging and look up the creator, the gatekeeper (publisher or website), and see what other sources say about it. Wikipedia can be a great and quick way to get info on creators and websites/publishers.
Find multiple sources on the same topic and look for better coverage of events. Do all the sources say the same thing?
See if someone else has already fact-checked the source. Snopes.com, FactCheck.org, and PolitiFact are online fact checkers.
Track down claims, quotes, statistics, and media back to the original source to make sure it doesn’t leave out anything important or misinterpret facts.
Find where the information comes from originally. Several news websites repost articles or news stories from other sources, often with attention-grabbing headlines and without the original context.
Video: Online Verification Skills: Investigate the Source (2:45)
It matters where your information comes from. This video discusses why you should investigate the sources of the information you find online.