SIFT: Source Analysis
The SIFT Method, created by Mike Caulfield, is a way to determine if resources are credible. SIFT stands for:
- Investigate the source
- Find trusted coverage
- Trace claims, quotes, & media back to the source
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?
2) 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 information may not be available in the source itself. Look up the author, title or website to see what other people are saying about it (Google and Wikipedia are useful for this!).
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.
3) 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.
4) 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.
Take note of your reaction in the first step. Did the article make you angry, scared, or even justified? Then, after you’ve completed the SIFT method, ask yourself if you would have the same reaction knowing what you know now.
You don’t have to go through every step! For example, if you Investigate the Source and find out an article is from a satire website, there’s no point in Finding Trusted Coverage or Tracing the Claims since you know the information is fictional.