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Prof. Sehulster ENG 101 Fall 2021: SIFT through the Internet

SIFT

SIFT is a helpful acronym for initially evaluating source credibility. SIFT (from Mike Caulfield) 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.
    If not, use the four moves (below) to learn more. 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 and to consider the creator's expertise and agenda. Is this source worth your time? Look at what others have said about the source to help with you these questions. (See the "Four Moves" below for more on investigating sources.)
    (For example, a company that sells health food products is not 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 trusted 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.
    Again, use the Four Moves below.
  • TRACE claims, quotes, and media back to the original context.
    Sometimes online information has been removed from its original context (for example, a news story is reported on in another online publication or an image is shared on Twitter). If needed trace the information back to the original source in order to recontextualize it. 

Modified from Mike Caulfield's SIFT (Four Moves), which is 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.

Four Moves of Fact Checkers

There are numerous ways to "SIFT" (as described above). These "four moves" from Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers will help you "SIFT." 

When you first come across a web source, do a quick initial assessment, much like a fact-checker does. Fact-checkers don't spend too much time on a website; instead they quickly leave that site to see what others have said about the site.

  • "Check for previous work.": Has someone already fact-checked the claim or analyzed the research?
    (Search the Internet for other coverage on the claim. Consider where that coverage comes from.)
  • "Go upstream to the source.": Is this the original source of the information, or is this a re-publication or an interpretation of previously published work? Are you examining the original source? If not, trace back to it.
  • "Read laterally.": What are others have saying about the original source and about its claim?
     
  • "Circle back.": If you hit a dead road, what other search terms or strategies might lead you to the information that you need? 

(Adapted from “Four Moves,” Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers, Mike Caulfield)

How to Find Information Online

Lateral Reading

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