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Information Literacy

The SIFT Method

The SIFT Method is a checklist of things to do when looking at a source of information. The goal of SIFT is to help you quickly and easily parse the information you find online and determine if it is reputable. This method can be applied to news, scholarly articles, social media posts, videos, and images. 

Modified from Mike Caulfield's SIFT (Four Moves), which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.



When you go to a new website - STOP. Consider what you know about this website.

  • How familiar are you with the site?
  • What do you know about this site and it's author(s)? Are they reputable? 

If you're not familiar with the website or the claim being made, then continue with the SIFT method to figure out if the source and/or the claim/headline/report is trustworthy and factual.

  • Don't read or share media until you know what it is!

  • Throughout this process check your emotions and feelings of bias.

Generally, a quick and shallow investigation is just as useful as going down the rabbit hole. Focusing on a quick stop will help prevent you from going down unnecessary rabbit holes. 


The next step before sharing is to Investigate the Source. 

  • What can you find about the author/website creators? ​See the 'About Us' section.
  • What is their mission? Do they have vested interests? ​Would their assessment be biased?
  • Do they have authority in the area?​

Search Google or Wikipedia to learn more about the source that is not from their own website. 

Hovering is another technique to learn more about who is sharing information, especially on social media platforms such as Twitter.

Find Better Coverage

Sometimes you don't care about the article or video that you first see, but you do care about the claim it's making. Is it true or false? Does it offer a consensus viewpoint, or is it subject to debate? 

Sometimes it is easiest to not Investigate the Source, but to find the best source you can on the topic. That is where Find Better Coverage comes in. This will allow you to get a more complete picture of what you are trying to research. 

  • What coverage is available on the topic? 
  • Is coverage coming from trusted news sources? 
  • Have these claims been fact-checked? 
  • Who are the articles quoting? What is listed in their references?

After you've found the original claim, ask yourself if it was represented accurately in the media you first came across.

Don't forget to use Fact Checkers for more information: 

Trace Claims to Original Context

By finding the Original Source you can get a more complete or accurate picture of the issue/ article at hand. It is good practice to locate the original source of information and see the context, 

  • Was the claim/ quote/ media fairly represented?
  • Does the extracted information support the original claims in the research?
  • Is the information biased? 
  • Is the information being taken out of context? 


Online Verification Skills

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