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ENGL 102: College English II

The SIFT Approach to evaluating information

STOP: When you first hit a page or post and start to read it — STOP. Are you familiar with the source or the claim? Do you know if they are trustworthy? If you don’t know, take a few minutes to check for previous work. Don’t read or share media until you know what it is. 


 INVESTIGATE THE SOURCE: The idea here is that you want to know what you’re reading before you read it. Taking sixty seconds to figure out where media is from before reading will help you decide if it is worth your time, and if it is, help you to better understand its significance and trustworthiness. Go outside the source (read laterally) to see what other sources say about it (the organization or publisher of the website). Practice click restraint by closely reading snippets in the search results, and looking beyond the 1st page of results before clicking a link.


FIND TRUSTED COVERAGE: Sometimes you don’t care about the particular article or video that reaches you. You care about the claim the article is making. In this case, your best strategy may be to ignore the source that reached you, and look for trusted reporting or analysis on the claim. This can be described as “trading up” sources.


TRACE CLAIMS, QUOTES, AND MEDIA TO THE ORIGINAL CONTEXT: Much of what we find on the internet has been stripped of context. Find the original reporting source. Who said this? Where did it come from? If you can’t find the original reporting source you can’t trust that the information is accurate.


Language borrowed from Mike Caulfield, "Sift (The Four Moves)" blog post.

Image credits: Stop by AS Design from the Noun Project, Detective by Adrien Coquet from the Noun Project, and traceability by Timofey Rostilov from the Noun Project

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