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ENGWR 300 - Professor Arellano (Spring 2024): Evaluating Sources

What Should I Do on This Page?

In this section, you'll find two complementary strategies, the CRAAP Test and the SIFT Method, that will increase your likelihood of finding credible sources and help you evaluate the content you find. 

It will take practice to increase your proficiency using these strategies, but you'll find it a worthwhile investment because helpful resource that you can apply to your academic as well as your professional and personal life.  

Remember, if you have any questions about how to evaluate online sources, you can email me at harrism@arc.losrios.edu, or contact any one of the ARC librarians.

CRAAP Test Plus

Currency: The timeliness of the information.

clock

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well?
  • Are the links functional?

Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs.

puzzle piece

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is the one you will use?
  • Would you be comfortable citing this source in your research paper?

Authority: The source of the information.

People

  • Who is the author / publisher / source / sponsor?
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?
  • Is the author qualified to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or email address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source (examples: .com .edu .gov .org .net)?

Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content.

target

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?

Purpose: The reason the information exists.

Money

  • What is the purpose of the information? Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain or persuade?
  • Do the authors / sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact, opinion or propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases?

+Plus: How is the information impacted by the dominant culture? 

infinity

  • Who benefits from the story that is being told?
  • Whose voices, concerns, and experiences are included? Whose are excluded?
  • What assumptions are made? What unexamined beliefs does the author appear to have? What is the author unconscious/unaware of? 
  • What power dynamics are at work?

Original CRAAP Test created by Chico State Librarians. Plus questions inspired by the work of Angela Pashia.

The SIFT Method

S.I.F.T. stands for:

STOP
INVESTIGATE THE SOURCE
FIND TRUSTED COVERAGE
TRACE BACK TO THE ORIGINAL

This is a quick and simple approach that can be applied to all sorts of sources, from scholarly articles to social media posts to memes, that will help you judge the quality of the information you're looking at. It gives you things to do, specifically, four moves you should make, whenever you find a piece of information you want to use or share.

Why S.I.F.T.?

SIFT is an additional set of skills to use alongside the "checklist" of evaluating sources you might have already learned. 

Here are some questions you might have already been taught to answer when you look at a website: 

  • Is it a .com or .org?
  • Are there spelling errors?
  • Is the language scientific or technical?
  • Does the source look professional?
  • When was the source published?

However, in today's information ecosystem, these questions may not be enough to determine whether or not you should use a source because: 

  • .com and .org don't reflect the credibility or authority of the content of a webpage
  • spellcheck is easy to use
  • scientific and technical language isn't an indicator of reliability
  • anyone can design or purchase a professional-looking website
  • depending on the topic, the publication date of the information may not matter

S.I.F.T.

  • Stop
    • Do you know the website or source of information? Start with a plan. Check your bearings and consider what you want to know and your purpose. Usually, a quick check is enough. Sometimes you'll want a deep investigation to verify all claims made and check all the sources.
  • Investigate the Source
    • Know the expertise and agenda of your source so you can interpret it. Look up your source in Wikipedia. Consider what other sites say about your source. A fact checking site may help. Read carefully and consider while you click. Open multiple tabs.
  • Find trusted coverage
    • Find trusted reporting or analysis, look for the best information on a topic, or scan multiple sources to see what consensus is. Find something more in-depth and read about more viewpoints. Look beyond the first few results, use Ctrl + F, and consider the URL. Even if you don't agree with the consensus, it will help you investigate further.
  • Trace claims, quotes, and media back to the original context
    • Trace claims, quotes and media back to the source. What was clipped out of a story/photo/video and what happened before or after? When you read the research paper mentioned in a news story, was it accurately reported? Find the original source to see the context, so you can decide if the version you have is accurately presented.

Adapted from S.I.F.T: Evaluate Information in a Digital World, UO Libraries, https://researchguides.uoregon.edu/c.php?g=940703&p=7253292#s-lg-box-wrapper-27014439

Watch the following 3 minute video for a brief introduction into the S.I.F.T. approach by its designer, Mike Caufield.

Attribution

Note: This SIFT method guide was adapted from Michael Caulfield's, "Check, Please!" course. The canonical version of this course exists at http://lessons.checkplease.cc. The text and media of this site, where possible, is released into the CC-BY, and free for reuse and revision. We ask people copying this course to leave this note intact, so that students and teachers can find their way back to the original (periodically updated) version if necessary. We also ask librarians and reporters to consider linking to the canonical version.

As the authors of the original version have not reviewed any other copy's modifications, the text of any site not arrived at through the above link should not be sourced to the original authors.