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Evaluating Online Sources: Start Here

Introduction

Whether you use online sources (news articles, social media posts, videos, memes, etc.) for research purposes or your own personal knowledge, it is extremely important to know how to determine if a source is both appropriate (the right source for your needs) and credible (information that is trustworthy and reliable). 

This guide will introduce you to the SIFT method, which is a way to quickly evaluate online sources and information. 

Information Disorder

Due to the fact that virtually anyone can publish information online (through websites, blogs, social media, etc.), the internet has become filled with disinformation, conspiracy theories, and biased content. This alarming trend is known as information disorder:

Image: "3 Types of Information Disorder" by Claire Wardle & Hossein Derakshan, CC BY NC ND 3.0

Often times, the most sensational, divisive, or outrage-inducing content (aka, "clickbait") is what gets our attention. Knowing this, online content providers develop algorithms and information designed to keep us engaged, while simultaneously polarizing individuals and filtering out opposing viewpoints.

The current online information landscape can be overwhelming, and most people have difficulty knowing how to differentiate truth from disinformation. While a variety of checklists and evaluation tools have been developed over the years, the SIFT method has been proven as a quick and effective way to fact-check online sources.

Read more about information disorder and different types of false content here.

Introduction to College Research eBook

This OER textbook, Introduction to College Research, discusses information disorder, SIFT, and other current information literacy lessons. It's free to download here