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Evaluating Online Sources: What is SIFT?

What is SIFT?

SIFT is an online evaluation strategy, developed by digital literacy expert Michael Caulfield (Washington State University Vancouver), to help you judge whether or not online content can be trusted for credible and reliable information. SIFT is quick and simple 4-step process, and can be applied to all types of online content.

SIFT stands for:

STOP

INVESTIGATE THE SOURCE

FIND BETTER COVERAGE

TRACE CLAIMS, QUOTES, AND MEDIA BACK TO THEIR ORIGINAL CONTEXT

Why use SIFT?

SIFT is a quicker, more effective way to evaluate online content than traditional “checklist” approaches (such as "the CRAAP Test").

Some checklist questions you might ask yourself when initially arriving at a webpage:

  • Does this look professional?
  • Are there spelling errors?
  • Is it a .com or a .org?
  • Is there scientific language?

In today’s world, asking yourself these kinds of questions is no longer enough. Why?

  • Anyone can easily design a professional looking webpage and use spellcheck
  • .com or .org does not always reflect the credibility of the content
  • Scientific language does not always reflect expertise or agenda of the content

Additionally, checklist methods often require students to evaluate too many different types of criteria, and can take dozens of steps (and too much time) to check a single source. 

Online Verification Skills — Video 1: Introductory Video (Mike Caulfield)

Fakeout Game

Fakeout is an interactive lesson that tests your ability to detect online disinformation (aka, "fake news"). To play, follow this link

Try answering all10 questions, both before and after learning about SIFT, and see how your evaluation skills have improved!

Acknowledgements

Note: This SIFT method guide was adapted from Michael Caulfield's "Check, Please!" course at http://lessons.checkplease.cc. The text and media is (for the most part) CC-BY, and free for reuse and revision. The authors ask that people copying this course leave this note intact, so that students and instructors can find their way back to the original (periodically updated) version if necessary. 

The SIFT LibGuide at https://guides.lib.wayne.edu/sift (Wayne State University Library System), and the OER book Introduction to College Research (Butler, et al.) were also adapted in the creation of this guide.