The SIFT method is an evaluation strategy developed by digital literacy expert, Mike Caulfield, to help determine whether online content can be trusted for credible or reliable sources of information. All SIFT information on this page is adapted from his materials with a CC BY 4.0 license.
Determining if resources are credible is challenging. Use the SIFT method to help you analyze information, especially news or other online media.
Before you read or share an article or video, STOP!
Be aware of your emotional response to the headline or information in the article. Headlines are often meant to get clicks, and will do so by causing the reader to have a strong emotional response.
Before sharing, consider:
What you already know about the topic.
What you know about the source. Do you know it's reputation?
Before moving forward or sharing, use the other three moves: Investigate the Source, Find Better Coverage, and Trace Claims, Quotes, and Media back to the Original Context.
The next step before sharing is to Investigate the Source.
Take a moment to look up the author and source publishing the information.
What can you find about the author/website creators?
What is their mission? Do they have vested interests? Would their assessment be biased?
Do they have authority in the area?
Use lateral reading. Go beyond the 'About Us' section on the organization's website and see what other, trusted sources say about the source. You can use Google or Wikipedia to investigate the source.
Hovering is another technique to learn more about who is sharing information, especially on social media platforms such as Twitter.
The Standford Experiment
The next step is to Find Better Coverage or other sources that may or may not support the original claim.
Again, use lateral reading to see if you can find other sources corroborating the same information or disputing it.
What coverage is available on the topic?
Keep track of trusted news sources.
Many times, fact checkers have already looked into the claims. These fact-checkers are often nonpartisan, nonprofit websites that try to increase public knowledge and understanding by fact checking claims to see if they are based on fact or if they are biased/not supported by evidence.
The final step is to Trace Claims, Quotes, and Media to their Original Context.
When an article references a quote from an expert, or results of a research study, it is good practice to attempt to locate the original source of the information. Click through the links to follow the claims to the original source of information. Open up the original reporting sources listed in a bibliography if present
Was the claim, quote, or media fairly represented?
Does the extracted information support the original claims in the research?
Is information being cherry-picked to support an agenda or a bias?
Is information being taken out of context?
Remember, headlines, blog posts, or tweets may sensationalize facts to get more attention or clicks. Re-reporting may omit, misinterpret, or select certain facts to support biased claims. If the claim is taken from a source who took it from another source, important facts and contextual information can be left out. Make sure to read the claims in the original context in which they were presented.
When in doubt, contact an expert – like a librarian!.