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Business Division Faculty - Information Sources for Business

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Methods to Evaluate Sources

Mike Caufield's SIFT Method: Evaluating Information


Chart SIFT Method of evaluation


  • When you initially encounter a source of information and start to read it—STOP
  • Ask yourself whether you know and trust the author, publisher, publication, or website.
  • Don’t read, share, or use the source in your research until you know what it is, and you can verify it is reliable. 
    • The attention economy—social media, news organizations, and other digital platforms purposely promote sensational, divisive, and outrage-inducing content that emotionally hijacks our attention in order to keep us “engaged” with their sites (clicking, liking, commenting, sharing).
    • Stop and check your emotions before engaging!

Investigate the Source

Knowing the expertise and agenda of the person who created the source is crucial to your interpretation of the information provided. Ask yourself:

  • Who wrote the piece?
  • Is the person qualified to write about a topic?
    • Look for author credentials at the top or beneath the article.
    • No credentials? Do a Google search for the person? Move on if you can't find them.
  • Why was it written? What is its purpose? 
    • To inform or educate?
    • To entertain or sell something?
    • To spread disinformation to persuade you to think like the author or person who shared the info?

When investigating a source, fact-checkers read “laterally” across many websites, rather than digging deep (reading “vertically”) into the one source they are evaluating. That is, they don’t spend much time on the source itself, but instead they quickly get off the page and see what others have said about the source. They open up many tabs in their browser, piecing together different bits of information from across the web to get a better picture of the source they’re investigating.

Find Better Coverage 

  • Look for other coverage that includes trusted reporting or analysis on that same claim
  • Trade up for a higher quality source
  • Don't be wedded to using your first source.

Trace Claims, Quotes, and Media to the Original Context 

  • Much of what we find on the internet has been stripped of context.
    • Example 1: You watch a video of a fight between two people with Person A as the aggressor.
      • But what happened before that?
      • What was clipped out of the video and what stayed in?
      • Maybe there’s a picture that seems real but the caption could be misleading.
    • Example 2:  a claim is made about a new medical treatment based on a research finding
      • Are you certain if the cited research paper actually said that?
      • Track it down to verify
  • People who share these stories either get things wrong by mistake, or may be intentionally trying to mislead us.
  • Trace the claim, quote, or media back to the source, so you can see it in its original context and get a sense of whether the version you saw was accurately presented. 


Butler, Walter, D. Aloha Sargent, and Kelsey Smith. "Information Sources: Bias," Introduction to College Research. OER. Pressbooks. 2020.

SIFT Method: developed by Mike Caulfield, Washington State University digital literacy expert

Link to more information about the SIFT Method of evaluating information below:

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