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Evaluating Information Online

Use the four steps of the SIFT Method to evaluate online information.

SIFT: The Four Steps to Evaluate Information Online

SIFT is an acronym.

It stands for:

  • Stop
  • Investigate the source
  • Find a better source
  • Trace claim to the original context

Stop

  • Check in with your emotions. The story or headline may be trying to anger or excite you to get you to click on its links and view its ads.
  • Before you read, share, or use the information, first investigate the source’s credibility and objectivity. Make sure that you can trust the author, publisher, publication, or website.
  • If you are unfamiliar with the person or organization providing the information, then go to the next step.

Investigate the source

Navigate away from your information source in order to see what other sources say about the person or organization who is responsible for the information you are evaluating. Here’s how:

  • Look up the author, publisher, publication, or website using a search engine or Wikipedia to find out about them from other sources.
  • Determine the expertise and agenda of the person or organization providing the information.
Search tip

Using a search engine, type wikipedia after the domain name of a site, or after a person’s name, to show the wikipedia article at the top of your search results.

  • Example: https://www.mayoclinic.org wikipedia
  • Example: carla hayden wikipedia

Find a better source

If you have doubts about the quality of claims on the webpage you are viewing, or want to find out whether a certain claim is true or false, use other news sources and fact-checking sites to verify information about the claim.

Use reliable fact-checking sites to verify claims:

Search tip:

Enter the claim you are trying to verify followed by the name of a fact-checking site to see any articles about the claim on the site at the top of your search results.

  • Example: ivermectin sterility in men site:snopes.com
Search tip:

Enter the claim you are trying to verify in the Google search bar and click the News tab of your search results in order to confirm that other news sites are reporting the same story.

  • Example: pesticides harmful to bees
Search tip:

Confirm claims by searching them in large, nationally-known news sources. Free, full-text access to major daily newspapers is available to CCSF students, staff, and faculty through the U.S. Major Dailies database (use your RAM ID), such as:

  • The New York Times
  • Washington Post
  • Los Angeles Times

Trace claims to their original context

  • When verifying a claim or news item, locate the original reporting source for the claim or news. 
  • Phrases such as “According to…” are clues to the original source of information for a story. 
  • Look for quotations from experts and do a web search for their name or for the organization they represent to seek the original source of the claim.

 

 

Credits: Text adapted from The SIFT Method, Introduction to College Research, by Walter D. Butler, Aloha Sargent, and Kelsey Smith, under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The SIFT Method, or The Four Moves,  is the creation of Mike Caulfield, Director of Blended and Neworked Learning at Washington State University of Vancouver and author of Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers, a free online book about evaluating information online.

 


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