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ECON 204: Macro Economics

Evaluating Sources

Evaluating sources to determine their trustworthiness, credibility, and reliability is challenging.

Infographic of SIFT, content provided below

Image Credit: SIFT-Infographic by Mike Caulfield under CC BY 4.0

Employing the SIFT Method

SIFT is a helpful acronym for initially evaluating source credibility. Developed by Mike Caufield, SIFT stands for:

STOP.

Pause and ask yourself if you recognize the information source and if you know anything about the website or the claim's reputation.

No? Then proceed with the following. If you start getting too overwhelmed during the other moves, pause and remember your original purpose.     

INVESTIGATE the source.

Take a minute to identify where this information comes from (like looking it up in Wikipedia) and consider the creator's expertise and agenda. Is this source worth your time?

For example, a company that sells health food products may not be the best source for information about health benefits/risks of consuming coconut oil. A research study funded by a pharmaceutical company is also suspect.   

FIND better coverage.

Sometimes it's less important to know about the source and more important to assess their claim. Look for credible sources; compare information across sources and determine whether there appears to be a consensus.

For example, look up the news event you found on social media with one of the library’s newspapers like The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal.

TRACE claims, quotes, and media back to the original context.

Sometimes online information has been removed from its original context (for example, a medical study published in an academic journal was summarized in a web article). If needed, trace the information back to the original source in order to recontextualize it.

Modified from Mike Caulfield's SIFT (Four Moves) and Andrea Baer and Dan Kipnis' Evaluating Online Sources. Both are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Later, when you determine that the site is worth your time, you can analyze the source's content more carefully.