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Wellesley College Research Guides

CS/MAS 366: Advanced Projects in Interactive Media

Using the SIFT Method to Evaluate Sources

Mike Caulfield (Director of Blended & Networked Learning at Washington State University) developed this short list of things to do when looking at an information source, drawing on the habits of professional fact checkers.

the steps of SIFT: Stop, investigate the source, find trusted coverage, trace claims, quotes and media to the original context.

Infographic for SIFT by Mike Caulfield from Check, Please! Starter Course, used under CC-BY license. 

Read about these "four moves", and watch the short videos below to learn more about these techniques.

Online Verification Skills

These short videos by Mike Caulfield provide a good introduction to the S.I.F.T. method. (These were made before he coined the acronym, so the order is slightly different, but the basic ideas are the same.)

Video 1: Introductory Video [3min 13sec]

This video illustrates the importance of evaluating sources through something called “lateral reading” (when evaluating a website, looking at what others have said about that page, rather than relying primarily on what the site says about itself).

Video 2: Investigate the Source [2min 44sec]

This video introduces the technique of looking up a source in Wikipedia as a first step towards learning more about a site or organization.

For more detailed instructions for investigating a source you find online, go to Investigating the Source on this guide.

Video 3: Find the Original Source [1min 33sec]

You may often find a claim or piece of information online that isn't coming directly from the individual or organization who made it. Here are some tips on to going "upstream" to find the source.

Video 4: Look for Trusted Work [4min 10sec]

Professional fact checkers seek out coverage of an issue from reliable sources.

A reliable source for facts should have:
  • "a process in place for encouraging accuracy, verifying facts, and correcting mistakes"
  • expertise in the relevant area
  • a strong incentive to get things right, regardless of their overall agenda or aim.

Adapted from Mike Caulfield, "Evaluating a Website or Publication's Authority", Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers, used under a CC-BY 4.0 license.