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SIFT: Source Analysis

The SIFT Method, created by Mike Caulfield, is a way to determine if resources are credible. SIFT stands for:

  • Stop
  • Investigate the source
  • Find trusted coverage
  • Trace claims, quotes, & media back to the source

Stop

When you first start reading a source, STOP and ask yourself:

  • Do you know the source of the information?
  • What's the reputation of the source and its claim?

If you can't answer these questions, use the other moves to get a sense of what you're looking at before you read or share media. If you get overwhelmed by fact- checking efforts, STOP and take a second to remember your purpose. How well are you expected to verify information for your given task?

Investigate the Source

You want to know what you're reading before you read it. Ask yourself:

  • Who created this source and what are their credentials?
  • What are their potential agendas or biases?
  • How may the author's point of view change how they present information or what information they choose to present?

This will help you know whether reading the source is worth your time, and if so, it will also help you better understand the source's significance and trustworthiness.

Find Trusted Coverage

When evaluating claims, you want to know whether they're true or false, and whether it represents a consensus viewpoint or if it's a subject of much disagreement.

  • It may be best to disregard the source you have and search for the best possible source that addresses the claim you wish to investigate.
  • It may also help to scan multiple credible sources to see what the expert consensus seems to be.
  • Find other coverage that better suits your needs - more trusted, more in-depth, or maybe just more varied.

You don't have to agree with the consensus once you find it, but understanding the context and history of the claim will help you better evaluate it and form a starting point for a future investigation.

Trace Claims, Quotes, & Media Back to the Source

Much of information you find may have been taken out of context. Things could have been taken out, framed in a misleading way, or misrepresented from an original source. In these cases, you'll want to trace the claim, quote, or media back to the source so you can see it in its original context and get a sense if the version you saw was accurately presented.